Tamils in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere have been left aghast by an explosive bribery sting rocking Tamil Nadu politics.

The so-called “cash for MLAs (Member of Legislative Assembly)” sting operations jointly conducted by Times Now and Moon TV over two months indicate that huge amounts of cash or gold may have changed hands earlier this year before lawmakers belonging to two factions of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party allegedly tried to fix a key trust vote and by-election.

The “EPS” faction of the AIADMK, led by incumbent chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, won a trust vote on February 18. In doing so, they defeated a rival faction, “OPS”, led by O Paneerselvam, who had been acting chief minister since the death of party supremo J Jayalalithaa on December 5 last year.

An April 12 by-election in the RK Nagar assembly constituency was canceled after the Election Commission found voters had been bribed.

People who voted AIADMK into power last year now wonder whether lawmakers are for sale and whether the incumbent government has any legitimacy. Neither EPS nor OPS have commented on the exposé.

The leader of the rival DMK party, MK Stalin, and 86 other MLAs who sought the dissolution of the assembly were evicted when they tried to raise the issue on Wednesday. The speaker said the matter was subjudice.

With a presidential election just a month away, State Governor Vidyasagar Rao and federal ministers have been silent. The federal government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), needs the support of regional parties such as AIADMK. The question is whether the BJP will forgo the support of AIADMK politicians in the wake of this exposé.

The federal government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), needs the support of regional parties such as AIADMK. The question is whether the BJP will forgo the support of AIADMK politicians in the wake of this exposé

SS Saravanan, the AIADMK lawmaker who was caught on spy camera bragging about bribes being offered to MLAs ahead of the trust vote, says his voice must have been dubbed.

In the sting operation, Saravanan is seen talking about how the EPS faction – then led by VS Sasikala of the AIADMK – lured MLAs to the luxury Golden Bay Resorts at Koovathur. Each lawmaker, he says, was promised Rs10 million (US$146,686) in cash or gold, while three – Thani Arasu, Karunas and Tamimun Ansari – were offered Rs 100 million (US$1,466,867).

While boarding the bus to the resort, Saravanan says he was offered Rs10 million but that the offer was subsequently raised to Rs20 million (US$293,373) then Rs60 million (US$880,120).

In the video, broadcast on Monday, he also says he could have been dissuaded from switching to the OPS faction if the Sasikala / EPS faction had given him cash or gold earlier, as promised. Saravanan states that he now expects to make millions of dollars and be given a berth in the federal cabinet.

In another video, he says the OPS camp had been told been told in advance by New Delhi (read the BJP) that the RK Nagar by-election would not take place.

The sting operation also caught another EPS faction lawmaker, R Kanakaraj, alluding to money and gold changing hands. More footage released on Wednesday shows brokers from the OPS camp naming MLAs ready to switch sides for US$293,373 each. According to one broker, the OPS faction is obedient to the BJP’s wishes.