SEC issues notification for GP polls in Andhra Pradesh

SEC issues notification for gram panchayat elections in Andhra Pradesh

The SEC called the gram panchayat elections 'historic'

Represenative image. Credit: iStock.

The State Election Commission on Saturday issued the notification for conduct of elections to gram panchayats in Andhra Pradesh, a day after the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government, which is vehemently opposed to the conduct of the polls, informed the poll body that the time was not conducive for the exercise.

Hours after the State Election Commission issued the notification top officials, including the chief secretary,did not attend a video conference convened by the SEC to discuss the polls as well as the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

The government had asserted on Friday it would be "ready to conduct the elections after 60 days of completion of first round of (COVID-19) vaccination of frontline personnel who would be involved in the polls." Also, the government's Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court against a division bench order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court giving the nod for conduct of the elections from February 5 was found to be not in proper format by the Registry, Law department sources said.

The bench on Thursday allowed the SEC's appeal against a single judge's order on January 11 suspending the poll schedule.

Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das, Director General of Police D G Sawang, Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi did not attend the video conference convened by State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar on Saturday afternoon to discuss the gram panchayat elections, first phase of which will be held here on February 5, as well as the vaccination programme, official sources said.

All the district Collectors too skipped the event, citing one reason or the other but mostly "connectivity problem" as the main cause.

The SEC turned down the Chief Secretarys request to postpone the video conference, saying it was the "right platform" to discuss the state governments concerns over the coronavirus vaccination programme also.

"I would certainly do my best to address the concerns on the vaccination front apart from poll preparedness.The Commission would like to discuss this issue prominently with the Collectors and give instructions suitably," Ramesh Kumar said in reply to the Chief Secretarys letter.

SEC Ramesh Kumar warned that only the state government would be held responsible if the poll process faced any hindrance.

He pointed out that it was the state governments "constitutional responsibility" to conduct elections to the local bodies.

"The government machinery will have to pay the price for any such eventuality," he stressed, adding that he would report all issues to the state Governor and, if required, to the Supreme Court as well.

"I trust there will be no deliberate attempt to impede the (panchayat) elections.If it happens...I will present a detailed report to the Governor on who is answerable for that," the SEC said.

As a special leave petition related to the elections was expected to come up for hearing in the apex Court on Monday, Ramesh Kumar said he would have to report the prevailing situation.

"Its inevitable and I cannot hide anything," he observed.

The SEC wrote a letter to the DGP in the evening, complaining against some statements made by Federation of State Government Employees chairman Venkatrami Reddy.

"The Chairman of the Federation, who has been vehemently opposing holding of elections, has made a widely publicised statement 'The Constitution has given a right to every individual to defend their life.In continuance of this right, the Constitution has given the right to kill'." "The Commission views this as most provoking and an unfortunate comment and a potential death threat issued against the Commissioner in his personal capacity," the SEC said.

He asked the DGP to take cognisance of this and keep a close watch on the activities of Venkatrami Reddy as the latters activities were likely to lead to events and situations resulting in physical hurt to the Commissioner.

Earlier in the day, the SEC issued the poll notification under which elections to gram panchayats will be held in four phases on February 5, 9, 13 and 17.

In the first phase, gram panchayats under 146 revenue mandals in 11 districts will go to the polls, according to the notification.

The SEC called the gram panchayat elections "historic", given the circumstances under which they were being held.

"People are very enthusiastic to take part in the election process.It is, of course, a major challenge for the Commission to conduct the polls against the odds," Ramesh Kumar remarked.

Panchayat elections are not being held in the first phase in Vizianagaram and Prakasam districts.

The elections will be held on apolitical basis.