CHENNAI: The state government has decided to do away with the system of direct election to the post of mayors in the municipal corporations in the State.
Days before a formal notification on the local bodies elections is to be issued, the government on Tuesday promulgated an ordinance on holding indirect election to posts of mayors of municipal corporations and chairperson of municipalities and town panchayats.
This would apply to 15 corporations, 121 municipalities besides 528 town panchayats. Tamil Nadu has not held civic body elections since the last three years, owing to litigation and delay in carrying out the delimitation excise.
In June 2016, the government dispensed with the system of direct election to the post of mayors but two years later, the Edappadi K. Palaniswami government revived direct elections to mayoral posts.
Till October, this year, the state Government had maintained that direct elections would be held for the mayoral post.
In the last two decades, both the DMK and AIADMK have consistently altered the system of electing a mayor alternating between direct and indirect elections. In indirect elections, the elected councillors will vote to select a candidate to the mayoral post.
The ordinance promulgated by Governor Banwarilal Purohit on Nov. 19 - the Tamil Nadu Municipal Laws (fifth amendment) Ordinance, 2019, which comes into force with immediate effect, states that the council shall, at its first meeting after each ordinary election to the council, elect one of its councillors to be the mayor who shall hold the office for a period of five years from the date of his election.
The decision to amend the laws has been made taking into account the advantages like better accountability and collective responsibility of the elected representatives of the urban local bodies and in the interest of the smooth functioning of the urban local bodies.
In the case of directly elected mayor or chairperson, belonging to a particular political party, they fail to get utmost cooperation from councillors belonging to other parties and it results in conflict and hinders smooth functioning of the council. Sometimes, even getting the council meetings convened at regular intervals become difficult. Besides the very basic purpose of serving the public comes to a grinding halt, which gets amplified in unimaginable dimensions in such urban local bodies, it was reasoned out.
Justifying the latest move, AIADMK senior and Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar said there was no need for apprehensions as indirect election (for mayoral posts) is allowed in a democratic set up. “How is the Chief Minister or Prime Minister elected? This is done by the party's elected members. This is permissible in a democratic set up,” he told reporters.
Averring that the State Election Commission will soon issue a notification on the polls, he said even the DMK had resorted to holding indirect elections to mayoral posts, in the past.
In 1996, DMK's M. K. Stalin was directly elected as mayor and he was re-elected in 2001. But he had to step down as mayor after the then Jayalalithaa government enacted one-man one-post law. He had represented Thousand Lights constituency then. In 2006, DMK's Ma Subramanian was elected mayor after his party made the elections indirect.
2011 saw the AIADMK government holding direct polls for mayor's post and the party's Saidai Duraisamy won. Observers believe that the mayor election moves from direct to indirect depending on perceptions of electability and the ruling party has tinkered with the law subject to whether they have an electable candidate. This is also often done to stop the Opposition if it has any leading candidate who seems electable in a direct poll.