Bye-elections for 16 of the 18 Assembly seats that were vacated in Tamil Nadu after their MLAs were disqualified will take place on April 18 along with the Lok Sabha elections, PTI reported. Bye-elections in two other vacant seats will also take place on the same date, the state’s Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo said on Sunday.

The state Assembly has 21 vacant seats. The Election Commission had separately announced on Sunday that voting to elect the 17th Lok Sabha will take place in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. The votes will be counted on May 23.

The Assembly speaker had disqualified 18 MLAs of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MLAs in September 2017 after they joined the camp of sidelined party leader TTV Dhinakaran. In October 2018, the High Court upheld the speaker’s decision. In January, the Madras High Court issued a notice to the state’s chief electoral officer, asking why bye-elections for these seats had not yet been held.

The bye-elections on April 18 will be held in Poonamallee, Perambur, Tiruporur, Sholinghur, Gudiyatham, Ambur, Hosur, Pappireddipapatti, Harur, Nilakkottai, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Manamadurai, Andipatti, Periyakulam, Sattur, Paramakudi and Vilathikulam.

Tiruparankundram, Ottapidaram and Aravakurichi constituencies are also vacant, but their dates were not announced in view of petitions pending in the Madras High Court, Sahoo said.

The filing of nominations will begin on March 19 and end on March 26. The scrutiny of nomination will take place on March 27 and March 29 will be the last date for withdrawal of candidatures. The results for both Lok Sabha and Assembly bye-elections will be announced on May 23.

The bye-election to Tiruvarur seat was necessitated by the death of sitting member and former Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M Karunanidhi last year. The Hosur seat fell vacant following the disqualification of minister K Balakrishna Reddy after his conviction in a criminal case.

The bye-elections are considered crucial as their results will influence the stability of the AIADMK government, led by Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami. In the 234-member House, the ruling party currently has 114 members, excluding the Speaker, while the DMK and its allies have 97 members.

However, two lawmakers recently extended support to Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam chief Dhinakaran, the Hindustan Times reported. This brought down the ruling party’s strength to 112 MLAs.

Actor-politician Rajinikanth has ruled out contesting the bye-elections. Earlier, he had declared that his party would fight only the Assembly polls and not the Lok Sabha elections.