The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Tamil Nadu Election Commission to go ahead with election to the local bodies except in nine newly created districts where delimitation of wards is yet to be done.
Passing orders on a petition by the DMK challenging the Dec 2 notification to hold elections on Dec 27 and 30 in rural local bodies and after February next year in urban bodies, the First Bench directed the commission to complete delimitation in the new districts within four months so that they could be held without any more delay.
The bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, passed the order after hearing the DMK and the State Election Commission which said it was ready to hold polls in all districts except in newly created ones where delimitation of wards is yet to be done.
The DMK opposed holding of polls piecemeal and wanted them to be held in the entire State at one go after completion of delimitation of ward. It also challenged the Dec 2 poll notification not only on the ground that delimitation of wards was yet to begin in the new districts but also because no provision had been made for reservations for Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Women .
Reacting to the apex court’s verdict, DMK president M K Stalin said his party was ready to face the polls any time. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami also welcomed it and said the AIADMK was was also prepared. He said the AIADMK would hold consultations with its allies—the Desiya Morpokku Munnetra Kazhgam of actor Vijayakanth, Pattali Makkal Katchi and others.
The elections to local bodies were last held in 2016 when former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha was alive. It took so much time for her successor government to stabilise itself after her passing in December that year and the consequent split in the AIADMK. Hence the delay in holding local body polls.
Though the AIADMK was routed in the last Lok Sabha elections, it managed nine out of 20 Assembly seats in byelections held alongside to cobble up a simple majority which it lost after disqualifying 18 rebel AIADMK legislators and loyalists of breakaway leader T T V Dinakaran.
The divided AIADMK has since come together even as Dinakaran’s party has gone into decline. In October, it wrested Vikhravandi and Nanguneri Assembly seats from the DMK and the Congress in byelections and it now has a comfortable majority in the Assembly.
That gave the confidence for the AIADMK to hold local body elections. Even so, it opted for two phase polls. And the State Election Commission accordingly decided to conduct polls panchayats and other bodies in rural areas this month and fix dates for urban dates after February next year. This because the AIADMK is strong in rural areas and the DMK in urban areas.
As a further measure of precaution, it also through an ordinance opted for indirect election of mayors and chairpersons by ward members. The Government also created nine new districts in the last minute to buy time.
With the DMK moving the Supreme Court for stay of the entire process until the delimitation wards was done and reservations made for women and Scheduled and Tribes, the commission offered to meet the objection half way by deferring elections in the nine new districts till the delimitation exercise was completed. The apex court found this compromise acceptable as it was against any further delay in holding elections.
In a way it is a setback for the DMK. It, however, cites the apex court’s judges’ observation during the hearing that it was not seeking cancellation of the polls , but was only for holding them after completing legal formalities.