The Local Body Elections which were scheduled on March 15 and March 17, 2020, were postponed by the State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar due to the outbreak of coronavirus in several parts of the country.
With the COVID-19 outbreak commanding the events in the recent past, the State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar met with the Principal Secretary (Health, Medical, and Family Welfare) A.K. Singhal and Commissioner Katamaneni Bhaskar on October 27 and later sent invitations to 19 political parties of the State for an all-party deliberation. Of these 19 political parties to whom the invitation was extended by the SEC, 11 parties sent their leaders and two conveyed their views in writing. Six parties have neither deputed any leaders nor made their opinions known.
After consultation with various political party stakeholders, the SEC released a notification mentioning that local body elections would tentatively be held in the month of February 2021.
The SEC in its notification took cognizance of the fact that “in recent past, General Elections were held to the Bihar State Assembly successfully by ECI with safeguards, by-elections were also conducted in several states and there were no adverse developments reported”.
The SEC has also pointed out that the State Election Commission of Rajasthan also notified elections for local bodies, the neighboring state of Telangana is all set to hold the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections.
Citing the above examples the SEC Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar has expressed that it is appropriate to discharge the constitutional obligation and to conduct the local body polls and requested the Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP) to take necessary steps for conduct of polls and suggested the State Health Department study the best practices which are being adopted in recently held elections.
Hours after the SEC proceedings the Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney gave a reply to the SEC, stating that “as and when the situation becomes conducive for the conduct of elections to Local Bodies, the State Government will immediately inform the State Election Commission regarding its preparedness and readiness in resuming the adjourned Elections”.
Further, when the SEC proposed for a video conference with all district collectors the Chief Secretary in her letter stated that it is not necessary for SEC to hold video conferencing with district collectors and other officers.
Upset with the Chief Secretary’s reply Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar approached the State Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan and express his concerns against the YSRCP government stating that the GoAP was making excuses and delaying the local body elections in Andhra Pradesh and the SEC is likely to file a petition in the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
According to the Article 243 K of the Indian Constitution, “The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats shall be vested with the State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner appointed by the Governor”. This provision in the constitution clearly stands in favour of the State Election Commissioner’s view of holding the Local Body Elections.
Meanwhile, the Ministers from the ruling party (YSRCP) and the Chief Minister’s political advisor have been attacking the State Election Commission ever since it first postponed the Local Body Elections in March earlier this year.