CHENNAI: Elections to local bodies are not likely to be held in the next five or six months going by the time-consuming delimitation process, which is in an advanced stage now, and the post-delimitation works, including completion of communal rotation process based on newly delimited wards and verification of polling booths.
Meanwhile, considering this situation, the State government, in a day or two, will extend the term of special officers of local bodies by six months. Their term ends on December 31.
“Counsel for State government has already informed the Supreme Court that the delimitation process is in an advanced stage. After issuing the notification, the entire election process will take 60 days since it involves large number of local bodies. The communal rotation process alone may take three months to complete,” official sources said.
On Wednesday, as per the directions of the State Election Commission (SEC), all district Collectors released the draft ward delimitation proposals for all local bodies, completed as per the 2011 census. The Collectors have called upon the general public and political parties to check the draft proposal and submit their objections if any to the concerned authorities by 5.45 pm on January 2.
“If the people find any discrepancies, any errors or mistakes wilfully committed, they can bring it to the notice of the district delimitation authority and the office of the Delimitation Commission. We will go through the representations and if errors or inadvertent mistakes are found, the Commission will ask the district authorities to correct them and send them back,” official sources said and added that to ensure fool-proof process is followed, the Commission would conduct regional meetings to hear the public. This would take place in the second week of January.
After this process is over, the SEC will send the final proposals to the State government for approval.
The government will consider the entire proposals and possibly notify them by February 28. After completing the communal rotation process, the government will have to issue a notification. Thereafter, grievances regarding setting up of polling stations, wherever necessary, will be redressed. District Collectors have been given powers to set right these grievances. Only after completion of all these processes, SEC can conduct the elections.
Copies of the draft proposals would be displayed at the offices of those who are delimitation authorities for their respective areas. For village panchayats the delimitation authority is the Block Development Officer; for panchayat unions, it is the Assistant Director of Panchayats; and for district panchayats, it’s the district panchayat secretary. District Collector who is also Inspector of Panchayats (rural local bodies), will be the overall delimitation authority for all these officers.
For the urban local bodies, Director of Town Panchayats is the delimitation authority. For municipal corporations, Commissioner of Municipal Administration is the authority. For Chennai Corporation alone, the Corporation Commissioner will be the delimitation authority.
Since the Tamil Nadu Delimitation Commission Act, 2017 has come into effect from July 11, the State Election Commissioner and senior officials conducted review meetings with all Collectors and completed the delimitation process. The objections to be raised by the public and political parties in the next few days will be cross-checked by the authorities concerned and if needed, corrections will be carried out in the draft proposals.
The purpose of the delimitation exercise is to delimit the extent of each ward based on a uniform size of population; number of voters is not the criteria. The Act allows 10 per cent variation of population for making a clear boundary in territorial wards.
In the case of village panchayats, such variation should not exceed 25 per cent. The wards so formed have been given a specific number according to their geographical location within the local body area starting from the north-west and ending in south-east in a zig-zag manner, contiguously adopting numerals.
The DMK, in its petition before the court, demanded that the local body election be conducted only on the basis of communal rotation done according to 2011 census and that the elections are to be conducted using electronic voting machines. On September 5, the Madras HC ordered that local body polls be conducted by November 17. However, SEC could not do so for many reasons. Following this, the DMK filed a contempt petition. On November 14, the SEC tendered an unconditional apology and the court reserved orders.