The Election Commission on Tuesday announced the schedule for elections to six Rajya Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu at a time when no opposition party has enough legislators to elect a candidate on its own.
The announcement has thrown open the possibility of the State facing polling for the Upper House for the first time in over 15 years. Normally, the number of nominations filed will be equal to the number of vacancies, and voting is rarely held.
Given the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)’s strength of 151 members in a House of 234 elected members, the party is well placed to grab at least four seats out of a total of six. But, in the Opposition camp, there is no clarity as to whether Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) will come together for the election.
The last instance when voting took place was in February 1996, when five nominees of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Congress candidate — Peter Alphonse — were elected. There was one more candidate in the fray — Udaya Bhanu — who belonged to a rebel Congress group.
According to a press note issued by the Election Commission on Tuesday, the poll, if necessary, will be held on June 27. It will be notified on June 10, the day on which filing of nomination papers will begin. Aspirants can file papers up to June 17.
The scrutiny of nominations will be taken up the next day and the last date for withdrawal of nominations is June 20. The election follows six members — A. Elavarasan and V. Maitreyan (both AIADMK); Kanimozhi and Tiruchi N. Siva (DMK); B.S. Gnanadesikan (Congress) and D. Raja (Communist Party of India) — completing their term on July 24.
As one has to ordinarily get 34 votes for getting elected, neither the DMK nor the DMDK can get its nominee elected purely on its strength. The DMK’s strength is 23. Though, on paper, the DMDK has 29 MLAs, six of its MLAs are seen to have broken ranks with the party, by calling on Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary Jayalalitha in the last six months.
Even if these six MLAs vote against the DMDK line in the event of a poll, they will not attract disqualification.
This is the legal position laid down by the Supreme Court in a couple of cases on the ground that elections to the Rajya Sabha constitute non-legislative activity and not a proceeding within the Assembly. Moreover, the election will be held on open ballot system.
The CPI, which has been strongly supporting the AIADMK government, is hoping to retain its seat.
Even though it has only eight MLAs, it is banking on the support of the AIADMK, which has a surplus of 15 votes, and the CPI (M) with 10 MLAs. The remaining sole vote can come from the All India Forward Bloc, an ally of the ruling party.
Interestingly, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) and Puthiya Tamizhagam (PT), which have two MLAs each, have been approached by the ruling party for the election.