Bypolls likely to be held in May or June

COVID-19 outbreak delays schedule

If Kerala succeeds in containing the COVID-19 outbreak in two months, byelections to Kuttanad and Chavara constituencies will be held in May or June.

The original scheme of the Election Commission of India (ECI) was to hold the bypolls in April along with the byelections in States such as Madhya Pradesh. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) was also prepared for the poll process. However, the outbreak of the pandemic has upset the plans, Teeka Ram Meena, CEO, Kerala, told The Hindu.

The groundwork for holding the two bypolls simultaneously has been completed. The voters' lists have been revised and the polling stations in the two constituencies were all found in good condition. Enough number of Electronic Voting Machines were also available.

However, the plans went awry following the spread of COVID-19. A situation has emerged in Kerala which is not conducive for holding the elections in April. The ECI has accepted the suggestion of the CEO not to hold the bypolls at this stage, he said.

Govt. consulted

Mr. Meena said he had informally consulted the State government before arriving at the decision as most of the senior officials, including the District Electoral Officers and Superintend of Police, are preoccupied with the virus control measures.

The outcome of the two bypolls will not be of much significance to the ruling LDF government as it is well-seated in the 140-member-strong State Assembly. However, the elections, which come at the fag end of the term of the government, will be viewed as the semifinal round of contests and a test dose on the popularity of the LDF government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The constituencies

The bypolls were warranted following the deaths of Thomas Chandy and N. Vijayan Pillai, the sitting MLAs of Kuttanad and Chavara respectively.

Election rules mandate that the bypolls shall be conducted within six months of the Assembly seats falling vacant. As Thomas Chandy died on December 20, 2020, election has to be held before June 2020.

In case of Chavara, the MLA passed away on March 8 and elections will have to be held before September 2020. Usually, the Election Commission holds bypolls only when a period of one year is left for the Assembly to complete its five-year term.

If the election in Chavara is held along with Kuttanad in May, it will pass the one-year period test. If delayed, much time would not be left for the legislator as the next round of Assembly polls will have to be conducted before May 2021, Mr. Meena pointed out.

If the election is held in June, only 11 months will be left for the completion of the term of the current Assembly and the new legislator will fall one month short of the statutory one year period. In such a situation, the Election Commission of India will have to take a final call, he said.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 7:53:30 PM |

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