The Election Commission of India on Monday cancelled the by-election to the Tamil Nadu Assembly from Tiruvavur, fixed for Jan 28, primarily blaming it on the havoc wrought by the Gaja cyclone and the State Government’s preoccupation with the relief works.
In a five-page notification, the commission said the State Government was itself was not for the by-election and all the political parties, including the AIADMK, were also against it.
It justified its initial decision to hold the by-election on the ground the vacancy had to be filled within six months from the passing of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi on Aug 7 last year. Even so, it had time till Feb 6, 2019.
Anyway, the decision has been welcomed by all the parties, including the DMK though the seat was held by Karunanidhi for two consecutive terms from 2011 till his death.
In a statement, DMK president M K Stalin said normalcy was yet to return to Tiruvavur after the cyclone and many people uprooted by it were yet to return home and they had also lost their documents like Voter ID and ration cards. Therefore, the turnout would be affected.
The ruling AIADMK, however, claimed that it was ready for the election and even at all-party meeting called by the district collector, it only wanted it to be held without hampering on-going relief works.
Amma Makkal Katchi deputy general secretary T T V Dinakaran claimed that his party was sure of victory and the AIADMK and the DMK joined hands to get it postponed as they had developed cold feet.
The EC notification, citing the report of the District Returning Officer, however said all the parties including the AIADMK and the AMMK came out against the by-election.
The DRO also said relief works were only half way through. He also said people would be busy with impending Pongal harvest festival and students would also be affected if teachers were drafted for election work on the eve of annual examinations.
The EC said as early as on Dec 3, 2018, Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan wrote to the commission that Tiruvavur had borne the brunt of the cyclone. She said it would take at least three months for normalcy to return. She wanted not only by-election to Tiruvavur but also to the 18 other seats which had fallen vacant consequent upon the disqualification of 18 legislators be held in April along with Lok Sabha polls.
The EC said that thereafter, it consulted the Union Home Ministry which said it was primarily the responsibility of the State Government to undertake relief and rehabilitation works and it was, therefore, the best judge of the ground situation.
The EC also referred to the petition filed by CPI national secretary D Raja in the Supreme Court and his meeting with the Election Commissioner on Jan 3 to press for postponement of the bypoll.
It said that taking into account the totality of circumstances, it had decided to rescind the bypoll. It said it would be held in due course “when the situation becomes conducive to the hold of a free, fair and peaceful election”.