CHENNAI: The DMK President M K Stalin on Sunday lashed out at both the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre for any attempt to further delay the holding of by-elections to 21 Assembly seats lying vacant in Tamil Nadu, while reiterating DMK's plea to hold elections to them simultaneously with the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.
"The ECI is an independent, constitutional body and it should uphold democratic norms by holding by-elections to the 21 vacant Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu along with the ensuing Parliamentary elections; but if the ECI buckles under pressure from the BJP government allegedly goading it to put the Assembly by-polls on hold, then the ECI will be committing a terrible historic blunder to write a black chapter in the poll panel's history," Stalin warned in a hard-hitting statement issued here. That could lead to even more dangerous consequences for the Indian polity, Stalin said, urging the ECI to fulfil its constitutional obligations.
Expressing shock at some reports that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government had, in its bid to clinch an electoral alliance with the AIADMK in the state for the Lok Sabha polls, "assured the Edappadi K Palainiswami government here that it (Centre) will ensure that the by-polls to 21 Assembly constituencies are not held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls", Mr Stalin said, "this kind of demeaning effort" by the Centre to "protect the corrupt AIADMK government and its ministers at any cost for short-term political gains was shameful and regrettable."
Mr. Stalin listed various charges of omission and commission against the Chief Minister, Edappadi K Palaniswami and his various Cabinet ministers and pointed out how the ECI was being pressured not to declare even the Hosur Assembly seat as vacant, after a special court had recently convicted one of the AIADMK ministers, Balakrishna Reddy, thereby incurring disqualification as member of the Assembly.
While 18 Assembly seats are lying vacant for over 15 months now, following the disqualification by the Speaker of the dissident MLAs' (owing allegiance to the dissident leader TTV Dhinakaran), three other seats have subsequently fallen vacant including two constituencies where sitting members had passed away (N J Bose in Tiruparankundram and M Karunanidhi in Tiruvarur), and latest addition to the list was Hosur, from disqualification of the MLA. These constituencies are deprived of people's representation and the BJP trying to further delay the by-polls to these 21 seats amounted the "belittling" the ECI, alleged Stalin.
On the contrary, 11 AIADMK MLAs' led by Mr. O. Pannerselvam, who openly voted against the ruling party in the confidence vote were being "embraced and showered with encomiums", said Stalin. Adding to this scenario was the BJP shelving various corruption charges and cases against the ruling AIADMK ministers and some higher-ups just to suit its political ends, charged Stalin, adding, the Modi government "in its desperate bid to somehow return to power" at the Centre was "destroying" all autonomous institutions. This was the greatest danger posed to Indian democracy, he added.
Earlier, speaking at a marriage function at Krishnagiri, Mr. Stalin alleged that the Centre was using the issue of by-polls to the 21 Assembly constituencies as a bargaining tool, to firm up an alliance with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu for the Lok Sabha polls.
Mr. Stalin said, the AIADMK, according to his information, fearing defeat in the by-polls to the Assembly seats that could lead to the Edappadi Palaniswami government losing power in the state, had imposed a condition to the BJP not to hold the by-elections simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls.
Mr. Stalin said, "Fearing raids, AIADMK is compelled to go with BJP in alliance. Talks are going on between BJP and AIADMK. The AIADMK is ready for the alliance if BJP accepted its condition not to conduct by-polls for the vacant Assembly segments."
The DMK leader added, "We will be forced to conduct massive protests across Tamil Nadu by mobilising the people if by-polls for 21 assembly constituencies were not conducted"....