EC in row over TN by-poll date

 The by-poll is being held to fill a vacancy caused by the death of a DMK legislator there. There have been instances in the past when the commission had rescheduled poll dates, as in Varanasi and for 29 constituencies in Manipur in 2007, on requests by individuals and political parties that the poll-dates were "very close" to the “Dussehra” festivities that year, said opposition AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa.

Hence, the commission should now postpone this by-election also, as “Pongal is the most important festival” in Tamil Nadu and may impede any effective campaigning by political parties, Jayalalithaa said in a letter to Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta. Similar pleas have been made by MDMK leader Vaiko and PMK Chief S Ramadoss.

However, indications in official circles till this evening are that the Election Commission had, while deciding the poll schedule, taken cognizance of "all factors" and was unlikely to change the poll date. The poll process starts on Saturday for the Pennagaram by-poll with filing of nominations.

Karunanidhi to keep mum

DMK President and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, in a cautious response from Bangalore, where he is presently staying at his daughter Selvi's house, did not choose to join issue with the Election Commission on this controversy and sought to play it down.

"Though the Election Commission did not consult the State government (the normal practice) before announcing the date for the by-poll as in the recent past, we greatly respect the Election Commission and we will act as per its decision," Karunanidhi said in a release from Bangalore and even announced the DMK candidate for the Pennagaram seat.      

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