Jagan Reddy attacks state election commission for deferring local body polls amid coronavirus outbreak
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy said in his letter to the governor that Ramesh Kumar had not consulted either the state’s chief secretary or health secretary to discuss the status on coronavirus threat before postponing the elections.Updated: Mar 16, 2020 11:19 IST
Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Sunday strongly condemned what he described as a unilateral decision of state election commissioner (SEC) to defer the elections to the urban and rural local bodies citing coronavirus outbreak across the state.
- Jagan Reddy lodged a complaint with Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan against SEC N Ramesh Kumar
- Ramesh Kumar, Jagan said, was acting at the behest of others
- SEC later clarified he had only followed the health protocol of the central government on coronavirus
Jagan Reddy, who is also the YSR Congress party president, lodged a complaint with Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan against SEC Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar.
He said in his letter to the governor that Ramesh Kumar had not consulted either the state’s chief secretary or health secretary to discuss the status on coronavirus threat before postponing the elections.
Speaking to reporters later, Jagan said there was no coronavirus threat in the state.
“More than 80% of the cases across the world were cured by house isolation and in Andhra Pradesh, out of 70 samples taken, only one case was tested positive. The state has taken effective steps and screened people with care and there is absolutely no need to postpone elections,” he said.
The chief minister accused Ramesh Kumar of acting at the behest of others and reading out the script prepared by others.
“The SEC was appointed by Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu as he belonged to the same caste. The SEC is supposed to be a man of impartiality, but unfortunately, it is lacking in him,” the chief minister said.
He also took strong exception to the SEC transferring collectors and superintendents of police of Guntur and Chittoor districts and suspending several police officials, besides halting the distribution of house site pattas.
“Ours is a popularly elected government with 151 MLAs. Who is more powerful? A chief minister of the state or the state election commissioner? If Ramesh Kumar can transfer officials unilaterally, why can’t he sit in the chief minister’s chair?” he asked.
The chief minister said the TDP president had been conspiring to stall the local body elections to save his face and also to deprive the state of central funds to a tune of Rs 5000 crore, which the state might have to forfeit if polls were not held before March 31.
“We shall take up the matter at a higher level if Ramesh Kumar does not change his attitude. We will not spare him,” Jagan said.
At a separate press conference, YSRC general secretary V Vijay Sai Reddy described Ramesh Kumar as more dangerous than coronavirus.
“He should be called Naravari Ramesh. He is unfit to be in the seat of state election commission – it is like seating a dog on the golden throne,” Sai Reddy said.
Calling Ramesh Kumar the suicide squad member of TDP president Chandrababu Naidu, the YSRC parliamentary party leader accused the SEC of being casteist and demanded his resignation, if he had any shame and moral values.
In a statement later in the evening, Ramesh Kumar said the state election commission is a constitutional body and the commissioner is at par with a high court judge with equal safeguards.
“Attributing motives to a constitutional functionary was highly regretted and it would only weaken the institution,” he said.
Ramesh Kumar clarified he had only followed the health protocol of the central government on coronavirus and had consulted national level functionaries before deciding to defer the elections.
“We have not cancelled the elections but only postponed and whenever the warning is de-escalated, the election process will start, without losing a single day,” he said.
He also defended postponement of house sites distribution, saying it cannot be allowed due to model code of conduct, as per the high court directions to the SEC to follow the guidelines of the Election Commission of India.
With regard to action against certain police officials, he said he had to make the decision based on ground reports and also due to the cases in the high court in which SEC was a respondent.