The Election Commission of India (ECI) cancelled the bye-elections to the Thiruvarur assembly constituency that was scheduled to be held on January 28. The order comes a week after the Election Commission had announced the bye-elections. It also comes two days after almost all the political parties in the state recommended the postponement of elections as relief and rehabilitation work after Cyclone Gaja was still underway in the district.
The ECI issued an order on Sunday stating that since Cyclone Gaja relief works are in progress in the district, it would not be possible to conduct elections in the constituency. ‚Äú‚Ä¶Taking note of the fact that necessary relief and rehabilitation measures in the area affected by the Cyclone Gaja are required to be undertaken by the State Government of Tamil Nadu and the district administration of Thiruvarur, which has to conduct the said bye-election, continues to be pre-occupied with the relief and rehabilitation works, the Commission is of the considered view that the process of conduct of bye-election from 168-Thiruvarur Assembly Constituency of Tamil Nadu cannot be continued at present,‚ÄĚ read the notification.
In its order, the Election Commission stated that the bye-election would be held in due course when ‚Äúthe situation becomes conducive to holding free, fair and peaceful election.‚ÄĚ
Chief Secretary writes to ECI
The ECI, in its order, also stated that the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu Girija Vaidyanathan had written to it on December 3, explaining the ground situation in Thiruvarur after Cyclone Gaja. ‚ÄúThiruvarur district is one of the main districts which bore the brunt of the cyclone and it will take at least three months for life to return to normal in the district. Therefore, she requested not to hold bye-election to Thiruvarur assembly constituency (which is to be filled in by 06.02.2019) before April 2019,‚ÄĚ reads the notification. Cyclone Gaja made landfall near Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam district and went on to wreak havoc in Nagapattinam, Thiruvarur, Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts.
In the same letter, the Chief Secretary also urged the Election Commission to not hold bye-elections to the 18 constituencies, where vacancies are required to be filled in by April 2019. The constituencies fell vacant following the disqualification of 18 rebel AIADMK legislators.
The ECI stated that after receiving the communication from the Chief Secretary, it was forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for its inputs on disaster magnitude and relief status in Thiruvarur. The MHA also stated that carrying out relief measures in a disaster-affected area was the responsibility of the respective state administration.
All-party meeting in Thiruvarur
The ECI‚Äôs order also mentioned CPI National Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP D Raja‚Äôs e-mail to the Commission, to postpone the elections since many people have been displaced from Thiruvarur due to the disaster and have migrated temporarily to other districts. Based on this e-mail the Thiruvarur district collector convened an all-party meeting on Saturday to discuss the issue in which almost all the parties recommended to postpone the elections to the constituency citing various issues.
Based on the discussion in the meeting, the district collector submitted that the ongoing relief works in the district, Pongal festival, harvest of Samba crops and the possibility of residents migrating to other districts as some of the major impediments in the smooth conduct of the election as scheduled.
The Thiruvarur assembly seat became vacant after the death of DMK supremo M Karunanidhi on August 7, 2018.