When Chennai went without a local body

After the Corporation was superseded by the government in 1973, elections were held only in 1996.— Photo: R. Ragu  

The Chennai Corporation Council, now facing its fifth elections since 1996, once waited for nearly a quarter century to get an elected body.

On November 30, 1973, the extended term of the council came to an end in the light of a controversy, popularly known as the “Muster Roll Scandal”. The term of the council, which was originally due to expire on November 1, had earlier been extended by an ordinance for six months. But when the controversy erupted in early November and 19 persons were arrested, the then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, on November 20, informed the Legislative Assembly of his government’s decision to supersede the Council.

The controversy had political ramifications too as several councillors, against whom allegations were levelled in the row concerning the fabrication of muster rolls in the Electricity Department of the Corporation, were members of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the now-defunct Congress (Organisation).

The government planned to hold the elections in six months. But this was not to be and it kept postponing the polls. For years to come, there was no change in the position even as the State saw numerous political developments, such as the dismissal of the DMK government in January 1976, the 10-year-long innings of M. G. Ramachandran as Chief Minister (June 1977-December 1987 with a few months break in 1980) and four spells of President’s Rule (January 1976-June 1977; February 1980-June 1980, January 1988-January 1989 and January 1991-June 1991).

In 1992, two Constitutional Amendments were enacted, making it mandatory for all States to have elected local bodies. After Mr. Karunanidhi returned to power in May 1996, elections were held to the Chennai Corporation Council and many other local bodies in October that year. This was a historic moment for Chennai residents, who had last exercised their franchise in civic elections in 1968.