The Election Commission was once respected as a constitutional, neutral body, with at least some pretence to be fair and apolitical. However, its actions relating to Tamil Nadu continue to raise eyebrows. Right from the time the EC took its time to hold the RK Nagar bypoll, and later announcing the by-election a day after allotting the two leaves symbol to the AIADMK, the EC has been appeared to be less than fair. Yet another instance of farcical action by the EC has come in the contest of the announcement that bypoll to the Tiruvarur constituency would be held on January 28 and its announcement on January 7 that the election was postponed.

While outwardly it appeared that the EC had acted tough during the campaign for the bypoll in RK Nagar, when Health minister Vijayabhaskar’s house was raided and the EC claimed that documents were recovered showing distribution of Rs 99 crore black money as cash in the constituency, there was silence later when it came to action in the case. Recently, the EC claimed it was surprised and that it had no knowledge of the case filed by the Tamil Nadu Government having been closed without taking action against anyone.

In fact, the very announcement that the Tiruvarur by-election would be held on January 28 had taken everyone in Tamil Nadu by surprise, including the ruling AIADMK. At a time when the AIADMK believed that bypolls would be held only with the LS polls including for the 18 seats where 18 AIADMK MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker of the Tamil Nadu Assembly, the EC action has been opposed by various parties including the AIADMK on the ground that Gaja cyclone relief work would be affected.

What is extremely absurd is that the EC has cited the December 3 letter of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan to postpone the bypoll now. Fact is that the December 3 letter of the chief secretary had opposed holding of bypoll in January and that the byelections should not be held before April 2019. Why then did the EC go ahead with the bypoll? And why is it holding a fig leaf in the form of the State government letter now to postpone the bypoll? There are more questions than answers here. Whatever be the justification for the actions of the EC and the excuses trotted out by it, it is clear that the EC has acted in a bizarre and illogical manner.

What were the compulsions that guided the EC to act in such a ludicrous manner?

Was there any pressure brought to bear on the EC?

The EC would not reveal. Nor will the political parties behind these moves.

One thing is clear. The AIADMK has received a rude shock from the EC, at a time when opposition parties charge the ruling party with being reluctant to face the electorate for various reasons. With Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the AIADMK can expect a few more shocks till an announcement of an electoral alliance between the AIADMK and the BJP.

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