The government of chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy also decided to defy the SEC’s directive to remove as many as nine “tainted officials,” including two district collectors and a superintendent of police, who allegedly failed to prevent irregularities in local body polls in March 2020 and curb violence.(ANI Photo)
The government of chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy also decided to defy the SEC’s directive to remove as many as nine “tainted officials,” including two district collectors and a superintendent of police, who allegedly failed to prevent irregularities in local body polls in March 2020 and curb violence.(ANI Photo)

Jagan, state poll panel tussle over local elections escalates

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 a video conference held by Kumar discuss the state’s preparedness for elections, which were notified in the morning.
By Srinivasa Rao Apparasu, Hyderabad
PUBLISHED ON JAN 24, 2021 04:40 AM IST

In an unprecedented development, the Andhra Pradesh government on Saturday boycotted the start of the process initiated by state election commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar for the conduct of village council elections next month after he refused to delay the polls until after the Covid-19 vaccination drive is completed.

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 a video conference held by Kumar discuss the state’s preparedness for elections, which were notified in the morning.

All district collectors, superintendents of police, district panchayat officers and other field officers also boycotted the video conference that had been scheduled to start at 3 pm. After waiting until 5 pm, Kumar left his office to go into a huddle with 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 other officials for attending the video conference to discuss the process of conducting elections without affecting the Covid-19 vaccination process.

The chief secretary wrote back to Kumar asking him to defer the video conference until the Supreme Court takes a decision on Monday on the state government’s special leave petition to stall the election process until the completion of the coronavirus disease vaccination exercise.

Kumar said that since the notification for the four-phase gram panchayat elections had already been issued and the nominations for the first phase would begin to be filed on Monday, the preparatory exercise should begin immediately. Polling for the 13,000-odd gram panchayats is scheduled to be held on February 5,9,13 and 17.

Kumar said he would abide by whatever the Supreme Court decides. “I have complete faith in the judiciary,” he said.

The government of chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy also decided to defy the SEC’s directive to remove as many as nine “tainted officials,” including two district collectors and a superintendent of police, who allegedly failed to prevent irregularities in local body polls in March 2020 and curb violence.

The chief secretary wrote to the SEC the government won’t take action against them at this stage as they were actively involved in the fight against the Covid-19 and engaged in implementation of vaccination drive.

The Andhra Pradesh state government employees’ federation chief Venkatrami Reddy found fault with the SEC’s release of the notification for the local body elections heedless of the pandemic. “There is no question of taking part in the election process unless all the employees are given two doses of vaccination,” he said.

Reddy said the employees were not worried about disciplinary action. “What can he {SEC} 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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