The State Election Commission is all set to issue the notification on Saturday for the first phase of elections to gram panchayats in Andhra Pradesh even as the YS 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.
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.
In the state capital, a fresh round of wrangling broke out between State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar and the government, with the latter asserting 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.”
The government clearly adopted a defiant stance, which became evident when the heads of the Panchayat Raj Department skipped an official meeting called by the SEC to discuss the polls.
Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi and Commissioner M Girija Shankar were, however, engaged in deliberations with the Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das after which they drove to the Commission office and handed over a three-page letter of the CS late on Friday night.
The state government maintained it has taken a consistent stand that the present situation in the state is not conducive for conduct of elections and as and when the it improves, the government would abide by the orders of the SEC.
In the letter, a copy of which was released to media, th Chief Secretary turned down the SECs order for re moval of nine tainted officers, including two district Collectors and a Superintendent of Police, from duties forthwith.
The Chief Secretary requested the SEC to arrive at a revised schedule for the panchayat polls that would be in compliance with the letter and spirit of the court order that the parties will make all endeavor to ensure that both programmes (elections and vaccination) are conducted smoothly and successfully.
Earlier in the day, SEC Ramesh Kumar called on Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan and apprised him of the high court order and also reportedly complained against “the non-cooperative” attitude of the state government.
Later, the SEC issued proceedings, asking the government to remove Collectors of Chittoor and Guntur districts besides the SP of Tirupati Urban.
“These officers have come under adverse notice of the Commission for their contributory failure in preventing the aberrations in the election process and for incidents of poll violence found to be exceptionable. The recommendation of the Commission is binding on the state government as per settled poll law,” Ramesh Kumar said in the proceedings.
An additional SP, a Deputy SP and four inspectors of police were among those sought to be removed by the SEC.
In his letter to the SEC, the Chief Secretary referred to this directive and maintained that the officers in question were “actively involved in the pandemic situation of COVID-19” and right now engaged in the implementation of the vaccination programme.