Andhra SEC satisfied with conduct of peaceful panchayat polls

Sharply contesting the claims made by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC), Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar on Monday said the four-phase panchayat elections were held peacefully and expressed complete satisfaction over the polls.

“Police strictly participated in the election duty, including setting aside their Covid-19 vaccination, which did not lead to any untoward incident. The Election Commission expresses complete satisfaction,” Kumar added.

He also highlighted that the number of unanimous polls were also not abnormal.

“When we conducted the elections for 13,097 positions (panchayats), only 2,195 positions or 16 per cent of them had unanimous polls,” the SEC said.

However, contradicting Kumar, Chandrababu Naidu and TDP leaders have been making a barrage of allegations that the polls were not held in a free and fair manner.

According to Kumar, 10,890 ‘sarpanches’ have directly competed in the elections and won, including up to 50 per cent women and representatives from the weaker sections.

Kumar hoped that those winning the elections would provide good leadership.

He also heaped praise on employees of different government departments for their services in holding the polls peacefully across the state which continued for nearly a month.

“In every phase of the polls, nearly more than 90,000 government employees from all departments have participated. More than 50,000 policemen also participated in every phase of the elections,” said Kumar, who retired as an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.

Indicating the high level of participation in the polls, Kumar added, more than 80 per cent voters exercised their franchise.

He appreciated the Director General of Police, Chief Secretary and the Health department for their cooperation and services.

The holding of rural local body (panchayat) elections had emerged as a major flashpoint between the SEC and the YSR Congress Party government, which have been at loggerheads for more than a year.

The panchayat elections were originally slated in 2018 when the tenure of the local bodies expired back then but Kumar chose not to hold them and waited until 2021.

However, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy proposed the idea of going to the polls in March 2020 but Kumar refused holding them citing the coronavirus pandemic, which had lead to a major row between the two.

Reddy accused Kumar of acting at the behest of opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, during whose tenure he was appointed and even tried to replace him, which backfired as the SEC has constitutional protection equal to a Supreme Court judge.

With just one more month left as the SEC, Kumar has successfully conducted the polls which the state government could not stall with their deferment appeal being dismissed in the Supreme Court.