DMK is likely to organize indirect polls for heads of civic organizations | Latest India News

The DMK government in Tamil Nadu has no plans to hold direct elections for the posts of mayors in companies and presidents in municipalities and panchayats, party leaders have said.

Nearly 10 months after taking power in May 2021, the ruling DMK is set to test the electoral waters again in city local polls, likely to be held in February, almost a decade later.

The stakes are high because whichever party wins the majority of wards in the state’s 21 corporations, 138 municipalities and 490 city panchayats will also win mayoral and president positions and hold control of cities and towns. districts. In an indirect election for the heads of local bodies, the popularly elected ward members will elect a company mayor, a municipal chairman and a panchayat head.

“From now on we will opt for indirect elections (to these senior positions) and if there is a change it will have to be tabled in the assembly, but it is unlikely. We are just waiting for the election dates to be announced,” a senior DMK official in the state said on condition of anonymity.

The late J Jayalalithaa in 2016 passed legislation which provides for a 50% quota for women in urban local bodies and there have been indications that the ruling DMK is considering having a female mayor for Chennai. The capital had two female mayors in the 1950s and 1970s. ‘But, we can’t say that for sure now because the government has yet to release details of women-only and SC/ST societies’ , says the leader of the DMK. “Our discussions are ongoing. What I can say is that we will ensure that the representation of women and people from the backward classes is represented. This is evident from the party’s restructuring of its stand committees with members from both the women’s wing and the youth wing.

The DMK is confident in the urban local body polls as they have been on a winning streak since the 2019 parliamentary elections. After forming government in May last year, the DMK scored a huge victory in the rural polls organized in nine newly carved districts in October last year. “We generally have a good grip on companies and municipalities. But we focus on all regions. Because governing state and local government will ensure smooth administration, which is why we believe it is better to continue with indirect elections,” the DMK leader said.

TN’s switch to indirect polls

The DMK patriarch, M Karunanidhi, held direct elections for mayor in 1996. His son and current chief minister, MK Stalin, became Chennai’s first directly elected mayor. This saw a start in 2006 when the party decided to conduct indirect elections to local bodies. The current Minister of Health, Mr Subramanian, served as Mayor of Chennai. This was reversed when AIADMK rule began in 2011. The AIADMK passed legislation in the state assembly that allowed people to directly elect heads of city local bodies. However, in 2016 the AIADMK decided to hold indirect elections, but the polls were postponed and have not been held since then. During its rule, the AIADMK government held elections only for local bodies in rural areas in 2019.

Experts say holding indirect elections for these positions is a way for the ruling party to exercise control over who holds the positions. “Jayalalithaa had several issues with Saidai Duraisamy (Mayor of Chennai between 2011 and 2016) but she could not remove him as he was the mayor elected directly by the people. That’s why in 2016 they replaced it with indirect elections,” said Jayaram Venkatesan, head of Arappor Iyakkam, a grassroots movement that has denounced several cases of corruption in local bodies.

“A mayor is supposed to serve the public interest and not the political interest. So if the mayor is indirectly elected by the councillors, there is no accountability and the party can change the mayor at any time if they don’t toe the line,” Venkatesan said.


    Divya Chandrababu is an award-winning political and human rights journalist based in Chennai, India. Divya is currently Deputy Editor of Hindustan Times, where she covers Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. She started her career as a broadcast journalist at NDTV-Hindu where she anchored and wrote primetime newscasts. Later, she covered politics, development, mental health, children’s and disability rights for The Times of India. Divya has been a Journalism Fellow for several programs including the Asia Journalism Fellowship in Singapore and KAS Media Asia – The Caravan for Narrative Journalism. Divya holds an MA in Politics and International Studies from the University of Warwick, UK. As a freelance journalist, Divya has written for Indian and foreign publications on domestic and international affairs.
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