Why bypolls to only 18 and not 21 constituencies in TN, asks DMK

Even if the DMK were to romp home in all the constituencies, it will not be in a position to unseat the EPS-OPS combine. PTI

In Tamil Nadu, the by-election to the 18 assembly constituencies would be more significant as compared to the Lok Sabha elections in the state on April 18.

The first election without J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi would be a crucial test for both the AIADMK and the DMK. While Stalin would be attempting to prove his mettle as the leader of the DMK, the ruling AIADMK leaders Edappadi K Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam would attempt to do their best to try and keep the AIADMK flock together.

Meanwhile, for Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leader TTV Dhinakaran, the elections would be an opportunity to recapture the seats of his loyalists who were disqualified after they showed allegiance to him. It would also mean that Dhinakaran would scale back his Lok Sabha ambitions and focus his energies on the assembly elections.

When it was expected that the Election Commission of India would announce the by-election for 21 assembly seats that are lying vacant in the state, the commission on March 10 informed that bypolls would be conducted only for 18 assembly constituencies.

Speaking to reporters in Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s chief electoral officer Satyabrata Sahoo on March 10 clarified that bypolls to Ottapidaram, Aravakurichi and Thiruparankundram assembly constituencies would not take place as petitions challenging the elections are still pending in court.

As far as Ottapidaram is concerned, Puthiya Thamilagam’s Krishnasamy who has currently allied with the AIADMK had filed a case against AIADMK candidate Sundararajan; in Thiruparankundram constituency, DMK candidate P Saravanan had filed a case challenging the thumb impression of Jayalalithaa and the bypoll for the Aravakurichi constituency was deferred as DMK candidate KC Palanisamy filed a case against its MLA Senthil Balaji, who is now with the DMK. However, on Monday, Saravanan withdrew his case.

The 18 assembly seats fell vacant after the AIADMK MLAs belonging to these constituencies switched their loyalties to Dhinakaran, leading to their disqualification by speaker P Dhanapal.

Later, the assembly seats of Tiruvarur and Thiruparankundram fell vacant after the death of MLAs Karunanidhi and AK Bose, in August last year. The Hosur constituency fell vacant in January this year when its MLA Balakrishna Reddy who was also the state Sports Minister was disqualified after being sentenced for three years by a special court under the Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act in a 1998 riot case.

Speaking to The Federal, former judge of the Madras High Court Justice D Hariparanthaman clarified that until there is a court order to stay the elections, the EC cannot decide to not conduct the elections. “If the EC can withhold elections based on petitions challenging the elections, then it will be a mockery of democracy,” said Hariparanthaman.

Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin on Monday urged the ECI to hold polls in the remaining three vacant seats as well. He added that the reasons given by the EC were ‘baseless’.

A resolution passed by the party said: “With the Madras High Court having upheld the speaker’s decision of expelling the MLAs (Thirupparankundram and Aravakurichi), what legal hurdle does the EC have in conducting polls?”

Speaking to The Federal, A Saravanan, DMK’s spokesperson and an advocate, said that the EC’s decision ‘defies logic’. The party would consider knocking the doors of the court if the EC does not reconsider its decision.