Elections for the nine vacant seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council will be held on May 21 and votes will be counted after 5 p.m. on the same day, the Election Commission announced on Friday.

The Commission in its order has set May 4 as the date for issue of notification for the elections, while May 11 is the last date for filing nominations. It has fixed May 14 as the last date for withdrawal of candidature with polls scheduled to take place on May 21 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

The nine seats became vacant on April 24 this year, and on April 3 this year the Commission issued an order deferring the elections till further notice given the Covid-19 situation. 

The Commission decision comes after it received various representations including a letter from the Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari on April 30 indicating the feasibility of conducting elections in the State. In this connection, Governor Maharashtra has also mentioned that Udhav Thackeray was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra on November 28, 2019 and pointed out that as per constitutional provisions he has to become a member of either the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council within a period of six months, i.e., on or before May 27, 2020. He has further stated that the ground level situation is contained and as of now appears to be improving with several relaxations being made by the Government,” the Commission order states. 

What probably also helped the Commission review its earlier stand on postponing the elections till further notice, was a letter from the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra pointing out the various measures taken to control pandemic and that in the State Government’s assessment, elections to the nine seats of MLC by Members of the Legislative Assembly could be held in a safe environment.  “ State Government has assured the Commission that the State Government is fully committed to ensuring that the said elections are held in totally hygienic conditions with social distancing measures and other conditions imposed by the competent authorities,” the statement of the Commission says. 

The issue of holding the elections has led to tension between the Cabinet and the Governor Koshyari. The State cabinet had at least twice written to the Governor asking that polls be held.  The Governor sent a recommendation to the EC asking for holding of the elections days after Thackeray spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the phone. The details of the phone conversation between the two leaders have not been made public.