December 4, 2020

Santosh Patnaik
Vijayawada: State Election Commissioner Nimagadda Ramesh Kumar and YSR Congress Party Government in Andhra Pradesh appear to be poised for another showdown with the Assembly adopting a resolution not to hold panchayat polls due to the pandemic.

The SEC, who was removed from the post following reduction in his tenure through an ordinance, has decided to conduct the polls in February. He was reinstated after a bitterly fought legal battle over autonomy of the constitutional post.
A retired IAS officer, Ramesh Kumar was appointed during erstwhile Telugu Desam Government. He earned wrath of YSRCP after he postponed elections in March without consulting the government saying the Covid-19 situation was not conducive.

AP Government says polls were postponed when the State had recorded just three cases and now on an average 300 to 500 people were being tested positive.

Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney in a letter to the SEC said even the Centre had warned of second wave during winter if sufficient precautions were not taken. She told Ramesh Kumar that the situation was not conducive to conduct polls.

Telugu Desam president N. Chandrababu Naidu has termed the resolution as unfortunate and said the ruling party was fearing severe drubbing in local body polls due to its failure to keep poll promises.

The resolution stated that the present situation in the State was not conducive for the conduct of elections in February. It decided to incorporate suitable legal provisions in the AP Panchayat Raj Act, 1994 to handle such situations in future.

The tone was set by Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, during the short notice discussion on Covid, when he said that the coming three months were very crucial and people have to be careful taking all precautions going by the experience in some of the States. It cited how in the US there was a spike in cases after elections were held.

Moving the resolution, Health Minister Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas said, “The State is obligated to ensure the health of its citizens and at the very minimum not to initiate any activity which compromises their life and health. The State machinery has therefore communicated that it would be imprudent to schedule any elections at this time and this resolution has in its context the decision of the SEC to schedule the elections in February.”

“The concern for public health cannot be a subject matter of competitive assessment, opination etc and the State’s bona fide opinion on such matter ought not to have been brushed aside. It is also to be stated that no two States are comparable with regard to the factual situation of the pandemic and its effect. The Incidence of Covid which is revealed in view of the intensive testing is eight times more than Bihar and six times of Rajasthan”, he said.

“Local body elections and the legitimacy of the elected members is directly related to the voters’ choice. If the voters do not turn out to exercise their franchise to choose their representatives out of fear of Covid and danger to their lives, it deprives them of their fundamental right to vote which is the very foundation of a true democracy and may result in an elected body not being true representative of the people” he said.

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