Though the EC claimed that money distribution was prevented to a great extent, there were bigger gains in terms of law and order. The April 13 polling could be termed one of the most peaceful, when compared to earlier elections in Tamil Nadu.
That said, Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar agrees that all the measures of the panel put together could have made only a little dent. "This time, money distribution has gone underground. We have done our level best to prevent it. I don't know whether the money distribution could be prevented even if we post one policeman per house."
Chief Minister M Karunanidhi strongly criticised the EC saying that an unannounced Emergency was in vogue in Tamil Nadu and wondered whether he was still continuing as the chief minister of the State. On the other hand, Opposition parties wanted more stringent measures.
Money distribution has a long history in Tamil Nadu and four decades ago, DMK founder C N Annadurai had then warned voters not to accept the money offered to them by rich candidates. Since then, bribing of the voters has grown to the level of what the State witnessed during the Thirumangalam by-elections a couple of years ago.
All Opposition parties went for the EC's jugular for its inability to curb money power in the by-elections in the last four years and also the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Stung by repeated criticism, the commission called for a series of meetings of top officials and retired officers before the current Assembly elections to evolve a 'workable solution' to curb money power.
The role of money in by-elections in Tamil Nadu had attracted the attention of the whole nation and the EC took a national perspective on the issue just ahead of the Bihar Assembly elections. It brought in stringent measures to curb money power in Bihar elections and later, improvised its formula for Tamil Nadu.
Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi, who was then an Election Commissioner, wondered at a meeting if the EC was helpless before the money game played by the politicians. "Are we so helpless? Should we throw our hands up to money power?" he asked.
The EC's strong measures in Bihar is well known. "What we see now is only a continuation of the measures taken in Bihar. But the difference is that no political party in Bihar raised a hue and cry, like certain parties did in Tamil Nadu," an election official said.
Detailed Expenditure Guidelines for candidates was evolved by the Commission. Video surveillance on campaigning by candidates and political parties, flying squads in each constituency, mobile check-posts with revenue and police officials and maintenance of shadow accounts of Expenditure Observers were some of the steps that the EC felt prevented the free flow of money to a great extent.
As a new measure, the Income Tax Department was roped in to track the cash flow. The department conducted 57 searches and 38 surveys throughout the State and unearthed unaccounted cash to the tune of Rs 15 crore. In Madurai alone, 10 teams of Income Tax personnel were on duty.
In yet another measure, 32 police officers from other States in the rank of Inspector General were posted in all districts to monitor law and order problems.
Several companies of central paramilitary forces landed in the State well ahead of the elections and on the polling day, 240 companies were on duty. Night patrolling was intensified and cash and goods worth Rs 46 crore were seized.