Local Body elections: Andhra govt, state poll panel at loggerheads
The Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government of Andhra Pradesh and state election commissioner (SEC) Ramesh Kumar on Friday headed for a showdown over the conduct of elections to village councils in the state in February.
As Kumar prepared to issue a notification on Saturday for the first phase of the gram panchayat elections, the state government sent a note to the SEC asking for a deferment of the election process pending a Supreme Court directive on the matter.
Meanwhile, state government employees, including those from revenue, panchayat raj and the police departments, announced that they would boycott the election process, stating that they cannot risk their lives amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the morning, the Supreme Court rejected a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the state government challenging the Thursday’s state high court order giving a green signal to the SEC to go ahead with the local body elections.
The apex court said there were flaws in the SLP and asked the government to file a fresh petition by Monday. The elections to as many as 13,371 gram panchayats will be held in four phases – February 5, 9, 13 and 17.
Kumar rejected the state government’s appeal and announced that he would go ahead with initiating the election process.
He also issued orders suspending two district collectors, a superintendent of police, two DSPs and five circle inspectors. The SEC charged them with failure to prevent irregularities and curb poll violence during the initial phase of elections to block parishad and zilla parishad elections in March 2020, before they were postponed due to the imposition of a lockdown in the country on account of Covid-19.
In the afternoon, representatives of several employees’ unions met chief secretary Adityanath Das and submitted a nine-page memorandum, stating that they would not be able to participate in the gram panchayat elections until the Covid-19 vaccination programme was completed.
The employees’ joint action committee leader Boppa Raju found fault with the SEC for deciding to hold elections during the vaccination period. “How can vaccination and elections be held simultaneously? We can’t take part in the election process, unless all the employees are given two doses of vaccine,” he said.
With the employees refusing to cooperate, Kumar met governor Biswabhushan Harichandan and explained the situation. He asked the Governor to issue directions to the state government to cooperate with the SEC in smooth conduct of the elections.
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