Andhra govt petitions SC to defer Panchayat polls

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of India

The Andhra Pradesh government has challenged the High Court’s green signal to conduct rural local bodies elections through a special leave petition in the Supreme Court.

In its petition on Thursday, the government said that it amounts to risking employees’ lives amid the coronavirus pandemic to go to elections at a time when the Covid vaccination drive was being held.

The petition pointed out that the State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar was not a medical expert to decide on the polls at a time when the vaccination drive was on, and alleged that he did not even consult any expert.

According to the petition, Kumar unilaterally went ahead with the election schedule, despite the state government highlighting that vaccination is of utmost importance now, amid the prevailing conditions.

The state government aims to start vaccinating its police forces from the first week of February, who are the frontline workers and already engaged in vaccine security, shipping and other tasks.

Likewise, the petition pointed out that Kumar has two more months left in the office and was adamant to conduct polls during his tenure at any cost, disregarding public health.
People will be compelled to participate in elections without taking a vaccine, which will pose a threat to their lives, said the petition.

Meanwhile, ruling YSRCP leader Vishwaroop said the government prioritises public health over the elections. “YSRCP will sweep elections on any given day. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy went to polls alone several times,” said Vishwaroop.

Several other senior leaders assailed the SEC’s alleged unilateral decision.

Already, several government employee unions have opposed elections at this juncture, saying their lives are more important than the hustings.

Conduct of the rural local bodies’ elections has emerged as a major bone of contention between the government and the State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar.
These elections were originally supposed to have been held in 2018 when the tenure of the local bodies expired back then but were not held.

However, Reddy thought of going to the polls in March 2020 but Kumar did not give the green signal, citing the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a major standoff between the two.

Reddy accused Kumar of acting at the behest of opposition leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu and even tried to replace him, which backfired as the SEC has Constitutional protection equal to a Supreme Court judge.

With just two more months left as the SEC, Kumar is keen on conducting the polls which the state government is opposing, citing the coronavirus pandemic and the gigantic vaccination drive.

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