The Local Body Elections which were earlier scheduled for 15 and 17 March 2020 were postponed by the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar due to the outbreak of coronavirus in several parts of the country.
With the COVID-19 outbreak situation normalising to a great extent the SEC sent invitations to 19 political parties of the state for an all-party deliberation. Of these 19 political parties, 11 parties sent their leaders and two conveyed their views in writing. Six parties neither deputed any leaders nor made their opinions known.
After consultation with all the concerned stakeholders, the SEC released a notification mentioning that local body elections would tentatively be held in the month of February 2021. 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 to stop the SEC notification the Andhra Pradesh government has approached the High Court and also YSRCP government has passed a resolution in the assembly that elections would not be held in near future. In the meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has refused to grant a stay order on the local body elections. Justice DVSS Somayajulu further reiterated that the SEC is an independent constitutional body and has full powers related to conduct of elections. The court stated it is not appropriate for the State Government to seek to stay on conducting polls. The SEC was asked to file a counter affidavit justifying its decision to conduct polls on 14 December 2020.
A day after the HC refused to grant a stay on conducting the polls, the State SEC has once again written a letter to the Chief Secretary to prepare the voter rolls for the panchayat elections in February.
Whereas the State health department is anticipating a second wave of Covid-19 between 15 January 2021 and 15 March 2021. The State Government says it is not appropriate to conduct polls due to the possibility of a second wave but this logic may not carry weight and would be quashed by the High Court as many states have conducted polls in recent times by taking all necessary measures.
However, the SEC Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar looks determined to conduct polls before his tenure ends and constitutionally he is functioning within the limits of his authority.