TN rural local body polls by Dec end; urban seats later

The nominations can be filed from December 6 to December 13 and the scrutiny will be taken up on December 16

This is the first time in the state’s history that elections to rural local bodies and urban seats are being held separately. As expected, principal Opposition DMK opposed the move saying it vindicated the party’s stand that Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was “scared of facing people”. Representative image (PTI photo)

Tamil Nadu will face civic elections after a gap of over three years but the State Election Commission (SEC) has announced the poll schedule only for rural local bodies triggering a major controversy. While announcing the dates, the SEC said the schedule for elections to town panchayats, municipalities and corporations will be announced at a later date.

This is the first time in the state’s history that elections to rural local bodies and urban seats are being held separately. As expected, principal Opposition DMK opposed the move saying it vindicated the party’s stand that Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was “scared of facing people”.

State Election Commissioner R Palanisamy told reporters that elections to rural local bodies will be held in two phases on December 27 and 30. While the counting of votes will be taken up on January 2, 2020, indirect elections to elect district panchayat and panchayat union chairpersons and vice-chairpersons will be held on January 11.

“Due to administrative reasons, only the poll dates for rural local bodies is being made now. The polling date for corporations, municipalities and town panchayats will be announced soon,” Palanisamy told a press conference here.

More than 3.31 crore voters will be eligible to exercise their franchise to elect 1.18 lakh people to various posts -- panchayat ward member, president, district panchayat ward member and panchayat union ward member -- in the rural local bodies.

Palanisamy said the SEC will set up 63,790 polling stations to hold the elections on December 27 and 30. While the nominations will begin on December 6 and end on December 13, scrutiny will take place on December 16 while December 18 is the last date to withdraw the nomination.

The SEC’s “unusual” move triggered an angry reaction from DMK President M K Stalin who said there was no need for a body called State Election Commission as it has “trampled the Panchayati Raj law and democracy” by joining hands with the government of the day.

“The SEC doesn’t need a separate office now. It can operate out of a corner from the AIADMK Head Quarters in Chennai. That’s how the SEC has lowered its prestige,” he said.

Local bodies in Tamil Nadu remain unrepresented since October 2016. The polls then were cancelled by the Madras High Court on a petition filed by the DMK demanding completion of reservation of wards and delimitation.

Taking the litigation as an opportunity to delay the polls as it was in shambles following the death of its leader J Jayalalithaa, the ruling AIADMK gave one excuse or the other to postpone the elections.

Over the months, the government came under pressure from the Centre to hold the polls – the Union Government had set holding elections as pre-condition for releasing funds meant for local bodies.

Also, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the government for failing to adhere to its promise of conducting elections after setting deadlines on their own.

 

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