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UPI apps are allegedly being used to bribe voters in Tamil Nadu elections

A series of Tweets have alleged that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is using Google Pay, PhonePe and Paytm to transfer funds to voters who vote for the party during the upcoming Tamil Nadu Assemble elections, slated to take place on April 6, 2021. Allegedly the party, which is in power in the state, is using ration card data to identify voters and is using their mobile numbers to entice them.

Google Pay, Paytm and other Unified Payments Interface (UPI) mobile applications have a transparency issue, which can be exploited easily by political parties. Just as in the case of regular payment frauds, wherein fraudsters create UPI IDs on apps and use these to dupe unsuspecting customers, political party workers can create their own UPI IDs on various apps and thereafter, transfer funds with relative ease and speed. One bank account can be linked to multiple UPI IDs.

Unfortunately, there is no oversight mechanism by the Reserve Bank of India or the Election Commission of India to ensure that digital payment transactions are not exploited by political parties.

MediaNama has reached out to representatives of the AIADMK and the primary opposition party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, for comments. Requests for comments were also sent to Google Pay, PhonePe and Paytm. Their responses are awaited.

According to a report by Nakkheeran, a Tamil Nadu-based investigative magazine, for every 30 voters, one party worker is assigned and is provided with a Google Pay account. “Distribution of money to the 30 voters is arranged through Google Pay, with Rs 40 crore per constituency in Tamil Nadu. [In this way,] the Edappady government has planned a cash distribution scheme,” the reporter said.

Political parties effectively can transfer their funds to a bank account, or multiple bank accounts, and once again send this money to individual UPI IDs that are created by their cadre on the ground. The party can then promise to transfer money to the voter, on the assurance that they will vote for the party. According to one Twitter user, the AIADMK workers are asking voters to take a video of their vote based on which the worker will transfer Rs 2,000 to their account via Google Pay, Paytm or PhonePe.

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