With relief work for Cyclone Gaja still underway, the Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer sought a report from the District Electoral Officer on whether the Thiruvarur bye-election can be held.

Can Thiruvarur bye-poll be held TN CEO asks days after announcing date
news Polls Saturday, January 05, 2019 - 13:38

Days after announcing the date for bye-polls in the constituency, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo has written to the district electoral officer in Thiruvarur, asking if bye-elections can take place. The development came as a surprise on Friday evening, as the Election Commission had defended the bye-elections in court just a day earlier.

The letter also comes close on the heels of Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D Raja meeting with India's Chief Election Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. "CPI Rajya Sabha MP D Raja has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against holding the bye-election in Thiruvarur as people have been affected by Cyclone Gaja. Following this the Election Commission wanted to know whether it is possible to hold the bye-election at all. I have asked the DEO to give a report by Saturday," TN CEO told Times of India.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, D Raja explained his rationale behind approaching the Supreme Court, stating, “Relief works have not been completed in Thiruvarur. People's lives have not returned to normalcy. In these circumstances, if elections take place, the attention of the administration would be diverted towards election work. Relief work will be abandoned. People will be affected. Taking this into consideration, the Election Commission must think about postponing the Thiruvarur bye-polls. I have requested that they postpone it. They told me that they will ask the opinion of Tamil Nadu's Chief Electoral Officer. They told me that after knowing his assessment, they will make a decision. I had suggested that they also take the opinion of Thiruvarur collector.”

The Election Commission announced on December 31, 2018 that bye-elections to the Thiruvarur legislative assembly constituency would be held on January 28. A gazette notification to this effect was issued on Thursday. Accordingly, the main opposition party in the state, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam announced their candidates, Poondi Kalaivanan and S Kamaraj respectively, on Friday.

Incidentally, the ruling AIADMK, postponed its meeting to announce a candidate on Friday. They are expected to announce their candidate on Saturday.

In a tweet on Saturday, DMK President and Leader of the Opposition MK Stalin said, “The opinions of all parties, important representatives of Thiruvarur, farmers’ associations must be heard for the report to be filed by the District Electoral Officer to the Election Commission.”

Significantly, the Election Commission had defended its decision to hold bye-polls in Thiruvarur on Thursday, in response to a PIL by one Sathyanarayanan who had filed on behalf of the farmers in the Cauvery delta region.

The EC stated at the Madras High Court that according to law, bye-election must be conducted within six months of any constituency that falls vacant. Since Thiruvarur Assembly seat became vacant on August 7 due to DMK MLA M Karunanidhi’s death, elections to that Assembly seat must be conducted before February 7.

The EC had also given its go-ahead to the government for relief works to be undertaken with the rule that no political functionary may be involved in disbursing relief.

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