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India is the largest and one of the most vibrant democracies of the world, ably running a democratic system for more than six decades. We should be proud of it because very few developing nations have actually been able to run an effective democratic system. The role of Election Commission of India is to upkeep the principles on which the nation was built. The Election Commission over the years has enhanced its credibility by fair, fearless and impartial exercise of its constitutional authority in cleansing the Indian electoral system and stands as the custodian of the Democracy.

Today more and more countries are attracted towards democracy, because it is a governance of the people, by the people and for the people. Democracy demands greater devolution of powers not necessarily from the State to the local bodies but from the highest power center to the lowest unit of administration and that is why a new slogan called “Lok Sabha to Grama Sabha” has been coined, whereby power has to be returned from the Central Government to Local Government.

The enactment of 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution of India is a milestone in the process of establishing democratic decentralised administration through local bodies and taking administration to the doorsteps of the people to ensure economic and social justice. The process of conducting elections to the local bodies is a constitutional obligation as per the said amendments.

 

73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (Panchayats):

  1. Formation of Grama Sabha in every village with powers of general supervision over the elected Village Panchayat and the power to grant approval to the annual plans of the Panchayats.
  2. Formation of three tier Panchayats i.e., District Panchayats, Panchayat Unions and Village Panchayats made obligatory.

  3. More or less uniform composition of Panchayats at each level throughout the country.

  4. Reservation of seats for weaker sections of the society like SCs, STs and Women, not only in the offices of members of Panchayats but also in the offices of their Chairpersons.

  5. Duration of office for the elected bodies is fixed rigidly as 5 years uniformly and election to Panchayats is brought under the supervision, direction and control of an independent constitutional authority viz., the State Election Commission.

  6. Vesture of adequate powers and responsibilities.

  7. Powers to impose taxes and provision for grants, assignments etc. from Government funds through constitution of a State Finance Commission.

 

74th Constitutional Amendment Act (urban local bodies):

  1. Devolution of more functions and taxation powers.
  2. Revenue sharing with State Government funds.

  3. Regular conduct of elections.

  4. Reservation of seats for SCs, STs and for women.

  5. Uniform composition of the urban bodies throughout the country.

  6. Prescription of criteria for categorising urban local bodies like Town Panchayats, Municipalities and City Municipal Corporations.

  7. Restriction on the formation of Townships only to industrial areas where the entire municipal services are provided or proposed to be provided by the industry.

  8. Formation of District Planning and Metropolitan Planning Committees.

 

The Tamil Nadu Government as a follow up, to these Constitutional amendments, enacted the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994, replacing the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1958 and also amended the relevant provisions of various Acts relating to the urban local bodies.

As per the newly enacted Panchayats Act, Panchayats are classified into three different levels viz., District Panchayat at the Revenue District level, Panchayat Union at the Panchayat Development Block level and the Village Panchayat at the grass-root level. All these Panchayats at three levels share the same area at different levels as their jurisdiction but have different powers and functions. Each District Panchayat has been delimited into what is known as “Territorial Wards” at the rate of one ward for every 50,000 population for the purpose of electing members to represent in the District Panchayat. Similarly the areas of every Panchayat union have been divided into Panchayat Union Wards at the rate of one ward for every 5000 population. The Chairpersons of these two bodies are to be elected indirectly, ie., by and from among the elected members of the respective bodies.

The areas of every village Panchayat have also been delimited into wards for the purpose of election of village Panchayat ward members. But earlier on account of special reasons like uneven distribution of population within the village Panchayat areas, lack of well formed streets, roads, lanes and by-lanes and consequential adoption of “Block System” of house numbering, the number of wards in a village Panchayat has been fixed in the range of minimum two to maximum five per Panchayat depending upon the number of inhabited areas, population and geographical location. Hence, each ward had single or multiple ward members provided the number of members allocated to each ward shall not exceed three. Subsequently, before the ordinary elections, 2011 the multi-member wards were converted into single member wards. Each ward is represented by a single elected member only. Every village panchayat is having either six or nine or twelve or fifteen wards/members according to population.

Unlike, the District Panchayat and Panchayat Union Councils, the Chairpersons of village Panchayat i.e., Presidents of village Panchayats are elected directly by the voters themselves. Thus, four direct elections in all i.e., one for Village Panchayat Ward Member, one for Village Panchayat President, one for Panchayat Union Ward Member and one for District Panchayat Territorial Ward Member are conducted in rural areas.

The urban local bodies have been classified under three categories viz., Town Panchayats, Municipalities and City Municipal Corporations. They are individual units themselves and each one is in charge of the civic needs of its own area. At Present there are 529 Town Panchayats, 123 Municipalities and 12 Municipal Corporations in Tamil Nadu. The Mayor/Chairman and the Ward Members/Councillors of these urban bodies are elected directly.

The Local Body Elections:

Almost all procedures followed in the general elections i.e., those prescribed in the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and the election rules framed thereunder the Acts / Rules for the elections to local bodies were also framed.

The following direct elections are held on non-party basis viz.

1) Members of Village Panchayat Wards; and

2) Presidents of Village Panchayats.

The other elections viz. members of Panchayat union wards and District Panchayat wards in the case of rural local bodies and the elections of Mayor/Chairman and the Ward Councillors of urban local bodies are held on party basis. The electoral rolls for the local body elections are prepared and printed separately, local body ward-wise. But they are prepared adopting the entries in the corresponding electoral rolls of the Assembly constituency area. No separate enumeration of voters as such is undertaken for preparing the local bodies` electoral rolls.

Apart from these direct elections, the following indirect elections are also held:-

A) Rural Local Bodies:  

i) a Vice-President of Village Panchayat – by and from among the elected members of each and every village panchayat.

ii) a Chairman of the Panchayat Union Council – by and from among the elected members of each and every Panchayat Union Council.

iii) a Vice-Chairman of the Panchayat Union Council – by and from among the elected members of each and every Panchayat Union Council.

iv) a Chairman of a District Panchayat – by and from among the elected members of every District Panchayat.

v) a Vice-Chairman of a District Panchayat – by and from among the elected members of every District Panchayat.

B) Urban Local Bodies:

i) Deputy Mayors of City Municipal Corporations, and Vice-Chairmen of Municipalities and Town Panchayats – by and from among the elected Councillors of each local body concerned.

ii) Chairpersons of the Ward Committees in City Municipal Corporation areas having a population of three lakhs and above - by and from among the elected Councillors of concerned wards of the Corporations.

iii) Members of the various Statutory and Standing Committees of the respective urban local bodies - by and from among the elected Councillors of each local body concerned.

iv) Chairmen of the Standing Committees of Corporations – by and from among the members of the respective committee.

The Tamil Nadu State Election Commission:

The Tamil Nadu State Election Commission, an independent, autonomous constitutional authority formed under the Constitution of India as per the Provisions of the 73rd and 74th Amendments Acts of 1992 headed by the State Election Commissioner.

As per Article 243-K read with 243-ZA of the Constitution of India, all elections to Panchayats and urban local bodies are to be held under the superintendence, direction and control of the State Election Commission. For the first time in October 1996 the Local Body Elections in Tamil Nadu, hitherto conducted by the Government were taken over by the State Election Commission. The subsequent ordinary elections were held during October, 2001, 2006 and 2011.

The task involved in conducting the elections to the rural as well as for the urban local bodies in Tamil Nadu was elaborate, enormous, massive, magnificent and gigantic besides complicated. We have 99,324 wards in 12,524 Village Panchayats, 6,471 wards in 385 Panchayat Unions, 655 wards in 31 District Panchayats, 8,303 wards in 529 Town Panchayats, 3,697 wards in 125 Municipalities and 820 wards in 10 Corporations apart from the office of Chairpersons numbering 13,604 and as such it is needless to emphasise the size and magnitude of these Elections.

The Local Body Elections, 2011:

In 2011, the Local Body Elections were held throughout the State simultaneously at one stroke in two phases for different offices.

As per the Constitutional mandate the ordinary elections were successfully conducted by the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission in October, 2011. A mammoth 1,32,458 posts had to be filled up by the direct elections and 14,020 posts by indirect elections apart from committee elections. In the direct elections 19,647 candidates were elected unopposed and 4,11,765 candidates were in the fray for the remaining 1,12,745 posts. In these elections, over 2.45 lakhs ballot boxes were used in 60,514 polling stations in rural local bodies. And 78,903 EVMs were used in 25,877 polling stations in urban local bodies. Around 6.30 lakhs polling personnel were deployed. The rural areas recorded high percentage of polling (81.81%) whereas in the urban areas the poll percentage recorded is marginally less (72.52%). The overall poll percentage in the Local body election, 2011 is 78.80 which is higher than all the previous ordinary local body elections.The Commission has embarked a clear, crisp and comprehensive plan with all purposes and concluded its task successfully thereby strengthening the process of decentralisation and democratisation of grass root democracy in Tamil Nadu.


 

 
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