Assembly bypolls 2019: 46 seats across 13 states to get new MLAs on 23 May; 'mini elections' in Tamil Nadu to seal fate of EPS govt

On 23 May, 74 days after the schedule for the general elections to Lok Sabha were announced, 1.3 billion Indians will know the results of the 17th Lok Sabha elections.

The world's attention is centred around the 542 Lok Sabha constituencies (voting in Vellore Lok Sabha constituency was cancelled on 16 April due to massive recovery of cash), which will get their new MPs on 23 May. However, amid the anticipation over the formation of the next Lok Sabha, 46 Assembly constituencies across 13 states too will be getting new representatives on the same day.

 Assembly bypolls 2019: 46 seats across 13 states to get new MLAs on 23 May; mini elections in Tamil Nadu to seal fate of EPS govt

File image of Prime Minister Naredra Modi, Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami and PMK founder Ramadoss. PTI

The 46 Assembly seats, which are spread across the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Nagaland, Puducherry, West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, are undergoing by-elections for various reasons. These Assembly constituencies voted over multiple phases between 11 April and 19 May.

Ahead of the results on 23 May, here is a rundown of the process of by-elections and their significance in the present scenario.

RPA, 1951, holds the key to bypolls

The Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951, lays down the rules for holding a by-election for any vacant seat in the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assemblies and State Legislative Councils.

Death or resignation of the sitting member are the most common reasons for vacancies. Disqualification of the sitting member due to a criminal offence or under the Anti-Defection law are also other reasons that have led to vacancies in a state Assembly.

A bypoll is also necessitated if a candidate is elected from more than one seat as well. As per the rule, a candidate needs to resign from one of the seats. Such a scenario is likely to take place in Sikkim and Odisha, where chief ministers Pawan Chamling and Naveen Patnaik are contesting from two Assembly constituencies.

As per Section 150 of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951, which deals with vacancies in the state Assembly, the Election Commission will issue a notification in the Official Gazette in order to fill the vacancy.

Section 151A of the Act deals with the conduct of such by-elections at the state or national level. According to the Act, a bypoll needs to be held within six months of the vacancy. However, it also suggests that the Election Commission may choose to not conduct the by-election in a constituency if the term of the Assembly ends in less than a year.

Alternatively, the poll body may choose to not hold a by-election in a constituency too. "The Election Commission in consultation with the Central Government certifies that it is difficult to hold the by-election within the said period," the Act suggests. Recently, the Election Commission cancelled the by-election in Thiruvarur in the aftermath of Cyclone Gaja in Tamil Nadu.

The process of filling a vacant seat is similar to the one adopted during a general election to the Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha. Once the Election Commission announces any bypoll, the Model Code of Conduct comes into effect in that particular constituency.

Mini Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu

As mentioned earlier, 46 Assembly seats across 13 states will get new representatives on 23 May. While the Election Commission announced bypolls for 33 Assembly seats on 10 March — the day general elections were announced — itself, 13 other seats were added to the list during the course of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

Among the different by-elections this season, the results of those happening in Tamil Nadu will be closely watched by political pundits. By-elections for 22 Assembly seats will decide the fate of the E Palaniswamy government in Tamil Nadu.

While 18 seats voted on 18 April, four voted on 19 May. The "mini Assembly elections" have been necessitated after 18 MLAs belonging to the AIADMK were disqualified by the Madras High Court last year, upholding Speaker P Dhanapal's decision to cancel their membership under the anti-defection law. These disqualified MLAs had expressed no confidence in Chief Minister Palaniswamy and backed rebel leader TTV Dhinakaran.

The AIADMK government needs to win at least eight seats to retain a simple majority in the Assembly. If it fails to do so, Tamil Nadu may once again experience the political instability witnessed in the aftermath of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa's death.

At present, the AIADMK has the support of 110 MLAs (including the Assembly Speaker). The DMK has the support of 98 MLAs, while Dhinakaran claims to have the backing of three MLAs.

The bypolls for Panaji in Goa and Agra North in Uttar Pradesh have been necessitated due to the deaths of sitting BJP MLAs Manohar Parrikar and Jagan Prasad Garg, respectively. While the by-election in Uttar Pradesh is unlikely to have any impact on the government, the results of the Panaji bypoll may determine the stability of the BJP-led alliance in Goa.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath is contesting from his pocket borough of Chhindwara in order to enter the state Assembly.

Five Assembly constituencies voted on 19 May after their incumbent MLAs defected to different parties to contest the Lok Sabha elections. The five seats that voted in the final phase are Islampur, Habibpur, Nowda, Kandi and Bhatpara.

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Updated Date: May 21, 2019 22:10:07 IST