Explaining the Kerala High Court order reversing the Election Commission’s decision to hold elections to three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala after the Kerala Legislative Assembly elections and ordering the Commission to hold the Upper House elections expeditiously, P. SREEKUMARAN delves into the political ramifications of the decision for all major political parties in the state.
THE Kerala High Court’s order that elections to the three Rajya Sabha (RS) seats, which will fall vacant in the State on April 21, be held before the current Assembly’s term expires, has come as a huge relief to the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government. The notification for the same was issued by the Chief Electoral Officer on Tuesday.
The order also constitutes a major setback to the Election Commission (EC), which had announced that the election to the three RS seats from Kerala will be held after the constitution of the new legislative assembly. The EC’s counsel had argued before the High Court that while the date of expiry of the current Assembly’s term may be a relevant factor for consideration, it cannot be the sole basis for determining the schedule of such elections which ultimately affect the functioning of the house with those vacancies, that is, the Upper House.
The EC’s decision to defer the Rajya Sabha elections had evoked strong criticism from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)) and the LDF Government. The EC had argued, in its defence, that the recommendation from the Union Law Ministry that the polls be put off, cannot be ignored. The EC’s stand exposed itself to the charge that it had succumbed to pressure exerted by the Union Government to defer the RS elections until after the results of the Kerala Assembly elections on May 2.
The court’s order came in response to petitions filed by the Kerala Legislative Assembly Secretary and CPI(M) MLA S. Sarma challenging the EC’s decision to keep in abeyance the proceedings for the elections.
What the order means for LDF, UDF
Expectedly, the ruling party circles have welcomed the High Court’s order. In a statement hailing the order, CPI (M) state acting secretary A Vijayaraghavan said that the order has frustrated the conspiracy hatched by the BJP through the Union Law Ministry to delay the elections.
If the elections had been delayed beyond May 2, the CPI (M) could have lost its strength in the assembly necessary to ensure the victory of two of its RS candidates. Now, the CPI (M) is set to name its candidates at the CPI (M) State Secretariat meeting scheduled to be held on April 16.
Now that the High Court order has come, RS candidates from Kerala can file nominations till April 20 once the notification is issued. While the scrutiny of the nominations will be held on April 21, the last date for withdrawal of nominations will be April 23.The election will be held on April 30. On the basis of its current strength in the Assembly, the CPI (M) is in a position to send two of its representatives to the Upper House.
Likewise, the Indian National Congress (INC)-led United Democratic Front (UDF) is also in a position to ensure the victory of one candidate. In fact, the UDF had recommended the name of Abdul Wahab of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) as its nominee. It was against this backdrop that the move to postpone the elections had come.
In its order, the High Court held that when the EC itself has admitted it is duty-bound to conduct the election and complete the process at the earliest, it is only appropriate that it takes expeditious steps, without further delay, to complete the election before another assembly comes into existence on May 2.
The court also held that the EC must expedite the proceedings so that the representation to the RS from Kerala was always in full swing. It was also necessary, the order said, to avoid a situation where the nomination was made by the existing Assembly and voting conducted by another Assembly.
Another EC order had earlier been reversed by Kerala HC
This is the second setback suffered by the EC in Kerala.
The first setback came when the Kerala High Court removed the ban imposed by the EC to distribute rice to non-priority ration card holders in the state. The EC had stopped the rice distribution following a complaint by the Leader of the Opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, who had contended that the distribution of rice would amount to a violation of the model code of conduct, and would influence voters to favour the ruling party.
But when the HC removed the EC ban, the opposition party leaders ended up with egg on their faces, having antagonized a large section of the poor people.
CPI (M) sources say the conspiracy hatched by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) through the Union Law Ministry proves, once again, that the Union Government is bent upon creating hurdles in the way of the CPI(M) in maintaining its current strength in the RS. It was interpreted as a calculated political plan on the part of the BJP to harass the LDF Government by all manner of means.
The interrogation of Kerala Assembly Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan by the Customs Department in connection with the dollar smuggling case is also being construed as part of the game plan to tarnish the image of the LDF Government. The interrogation of the Speaker and inspection of his flat in Thiruvananthapuram came in the wake of the statement made by the accused in the gold smuggling case, Swapna Suresh and Sarith P. S. They had stated that the Speaker had invited them to his flat, where he gave them a bag containing money to hand over to the United Arab Emirates Consul General. Swapna had also stated that the Speaker had shared with her his plan to start a Middle East College in Sharjah.
Confirming the interrogation, the Speaker’s Office said that Customs officials had arrived at the Speaker’s flat after seeking his convenience. The Speaker had earlier stated that he was ready to explain all the allegations against him. (IPA Service)