Chennai: Barely a few days after the Election Commission of India announcing January 28 as the date for the byelection in the Tiruvarur Assembly constituency, the poll now seems pretty uncertain. In an unprecedented move that raised many questions—not all of them kind—the ECI has initiated a process to assess, afresh and rather belatedly, if the post-Gaja conditions would allow the poll.
The EC action follows the petition filed in the Supreme Court by CPI leader D, Raja against holding the bypoll in Tiruvarur because people there are yet to recover from the damage and destruction by Cyclone Gaja and besides, the government relief work was still going on.
The Communist MP also met with the Chief Election Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner in this regard. The ECI has since directed the TN Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo to check out with the Tiruvarur district election officer on the ground situation.
Following instructions from Sahoo, the district EO and Collector L Nirmal Raj held discussions with representatives of the various political parties and prepared his report based on their views, as well as statements from the farmers’ leaders and others. Almost all who spoke at this meeting told Collector Raj it would be imprudent, even foolish, to hold the election when the constituency has far from recovered from the Gaja shock.
“We pointed out that the government relief work not complete yet, that the people are still hugely displaced in terms of housing and livelihood and that in many cases, even their voter ID cards have gone missing in the storm”, said the DMK representative AKS Vijayan, ex-MP, speaking to reporters after the EO session.
District EO Raj’s report is expected to reach Sahoo shortly, after which the latter would send his recommendation for Tiruvarur to the EC for its final call.
With almost every political party and farmers’ body, barring the ruling AIADMK, expressing displeasure if not shock at the EC announcing the Tiruvarur byelection, and the strong sentiments expressed against holding the poll at the district EO meeting, the ECI is unlikely to go ahead with its January 28 date for the poll, sources say.
While the ruling AIADMK has put up a brave front saying its candidate would win handsomely at Tiruvarur, its two main rivals-DMK and AMMK-too have been making similar robust statements even while slamming the EC for announcing the by-election at this point of bad time. Even the AIADMK leader and Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai has declared at a media interaction at Chennai airport a couple of days back that this is a wrong time for by-election at Tiruvarur. "It is my personal question whether it is right to hold this election when people are having the Pongal festival and the government relief for Gaja is still going on", he said, echoing Communist Raja's rationale behind moving the Supreme Court to stop this election that nobody seems to really want at this time. It may be recalled that only on Thursday, the EC had in response to a PIL in the Madras High Court against the by-poll, defended its decision to hold it saying that the by-election should be conducted within six months of any constituency fa
lling vacant. The Tiruvarur Assembly seat became vacant when its MLA Karunanidhi died on August 7, so the by-election must be held before February 7, the EC told the court.
The EC had also given the green signal to the TN government to carry on the Gaja relief works with the rider that no political functionary must be involved in disbursing the relief-which meant only officials must do the job. Needless to say, that could end up as a silly joke....