interview | ma. subramanian Tamil Nadu

‘Prospects of holding civic polls not bright’

Indirect elections will pave the way for horse-trading, says former Mayor

Former Chennai Mayor and DMK legislator Ma. Subramanian is doubtful about the sincerity of the AIADMK government in conducting the local body polls. He says proper arrangements haven’t been made for holding the elections. Excerpts:

The government has announced its intention to conduct the local body polls. Do you think the elections will be held?

The chances of holding the elections are not very bright. Though the Supreme Court had directed the State government to finalise the schedule for the civic polls by December 13, the government has not taken any steps [to do so]. It has created new districts, whose borders have not been drawn. There is no clear data on the local bodies in these new districts. District Collectors were appointed [for these regions] only a few days ago. The announcement of the creation of three Municipal Corporations — Nagercoil, Hosur and Avadi — was made several months ago, but the government order was issued just 10 days ago. New wards should have been defined after the inclusion of new areas in these Corporations. The number of wards has not yet been announced.

But the Chief Minister has insisted that the civic polls will be held…

Our leader Thalapathy (M.K. Stalin) has made it clear that the DMK is fully prepared to face the elections. But it is doubtful whether the government would hold the elections. The government could have easily conducted the polls in the last three years. The Supreme Court/Madras High Court repeatedly asked the government to hold the elections. But the government was not ready for it.

The CM has said the DMK, which had itself conducted indirect polls to the posts of Mayors of Corporations and Chairpersons of Municipalities, has no right to criticise the government for deciding to hold indirect elections…

Direct elections were conducted in 1996 (by the DMK) and 2001 (by the AIADMK). In 2006, the DMK government introduced indirect polls with a lot of amendments to strengthen democracy. As per the amendments, a no-confidence motion based on the number of councillors could not be moved in the first and final years of the tenure of the local bodies. Jayalalithaa reverted to direct elections in 2011. Again, in 2016, she opted for indirect polls. At that time, the government argued that the Mayor could not adopt a resolution if his/her party did not have adequate members. I spoke in the Assembly when the Bill was introduced. I told the House that the argument held no water since the ruling party then had a majority in all the 12 Municipal Corporations. In 2018, Edappadi K. Palaniswami reverted to direct polls, contending that when a ward councillor becomes a Mayor, he would pay attention only to his ward.

Even 10 days ago, he said there will be direct polls. The AIADMK headquarters had received applications from aspirants for direct polls. The change was made all of a sudden at the Cabinet meeting, and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam suppressed it, saying no such decision [to revert to indirect polls] had been taken. But half-an-hour later, an ordinance was issued for indirect polls. These inconsistencies are proof that the government is not prepared to hold the elections.

Do you favour direct or indirect elections?

A direct election is good since it will not give room for horse-trading. Even State Assemblies have become vulnerable to horse-trading, and we are witnessing it in Maharashtra. In the past, Assemblies in Karnataka, Haryana and Goa were subjected to horse-trading.

The trend seems to be prevailing all over the country despite an effective anti-defection law. Horse trading will be easy in local bodies, which are not guided by an anti-defection law. Another issue is the demands of the alliance partners of the AIADMK. The PMK, the TMC and the BJP have been demanding Mayoral posts, and the AIADMK may have opted for indirect polls to prevent them from making such demands.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 2:45:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/prospects-of-holding-civic-polls-not-bright/article30071092.ece

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