Jagan govt boycotts panchayat election process after poll panel's notification
- The district collectors, superintendents of police, district panchayat officers and other field-level officials also boycotted the video conference.
In an unprecedented development, the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh on Saturday boycotted the process initiated by the state election commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar for the conduct of gram panchayat elections in the state.
State chief secretary Adiyanath Das, director-general of police Gautam Sawang, panchayat raj principal secretary Gopala Krishna Dwivedi and panchayat raj commissioner Girija Shankar stayed away from the video conference held by the SEC to discuss the preparedness for the gram panchayat elections, notification for which was released in the morning.
Not just these senior officials, all the district collectors, superintendents of police, district panchayat officers and other field-level officials also boycotted the video conference that was scheduled to start at 3 pm.
After waiting till 5 pm, Kumar left his office to go into huddle with his legal advisors.
Soon after releasing the notification for the gram panchayat elections in the morning, the SEC sent a communication to the chief secretary and others for attending the video conference to discuss the process of conducting elections without affecting the vaccination process, while taking precautions in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
The chief secretary wrote back to Kumar asking him to defer the video conference till the Supreme Court takes a decision on Monday on the state government’s special leave petition to stall the election process till the completion of the Covid-19 vaccination exercise.
However, Kumar said since the notification for the four-phased gram panchayat elections had already been issued and the nominations for the first phase would begin on Monday, the preparatory exercise should begin forthwith. The polling for the 13,000-odd gram panchayats is scheduled to be held on February 5,9,13 and 17.
He, however, said he would abide by whatever decision the Supreme Court would take on the conduct of local body polls. “I have complete faith in the judiciary,” he said.
The Jagan government also decided to defy the SEC directions to remove as many as nine “tainted officials,” including two district collectors and a superintendent of police, who allegedly failed in preventing irregularities in the local body elections in March 2020 and curbing incidents of poll violence.
The chief secretary wrote to the SEC that the government won’t take action against them at this stage as they were actively involved in the pandemic situation of Covid-19 and engaged in the implementation of the vaccination programme.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh state government employees’ federation Venkatrami Reddy found fault with the release of notification for the local body elections ignoring the Covid-19 pandemic. There is no question of taking part in the election process unless all the employees are given two doses of vaccination, he said.
Reacting to the SEC warning that he would take serious action against those who did not cooperate with the SEC in the conduct of panchayat elections, Reddy said the employees were not worried about disciplinary action.
“What can he do? He can, at the most, suspend a few senior officials. Can he suspend thousands of government employees with one stroke? Even if we are suspended, we would be back in our jobs the moment Kumar steps down from his post two months later,” he said.
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