Amaravati: N Ramesh Kumar, Andhra Pradesh state election commissioner (SEC), on Tuesday suggested to the state government to obtain a clearance from the National Task Force (NTF) on Coronavirus (Covid-19) to hold polls to local bodies immediately.
Replying to chief secretary Nilam Sawhney’s request to the SEC to reconsider the decision to defer polls, the SEC in a three-page letter, made it clear that it would restart the election process, which is assessed to be a high human contact scenario, only “after being assured or advised” by the NTF.
Making things on this front complicated for chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, who was keen on completing the poll process before March 31 to avoid lapse of the 14th finance commission funds, the Centre officially announced that the country had entered the second stage of Covid-19.
The centre has warned people against mass gatherings and advised strict adherence to moderate distancing (among people).
The SEC described the postponement of polls as implementing the central advisory protocol on “moderate distancing”.
Mr Kumar got a shot in the arm with State Election Commissions of West Bengal, Maharashtra and Odisha deferring polls in their respective states, a day after his move to do the same.
“Had the decision to postpone polls be announced along with other states, things would have been different, the SEC said in the letter, adding that the commission was being “needlessly faulted” for acting a day ahead.
In this backdrop, the Supreme Court will take up the AP government’s plea challenging the SEC decision on Wednesday. A bench comprising chief justice S A Bobde will take up the case.
Mr Ramesh Kumar offered to work closely with the state government in the task of obtaining 14th Finance Commission funds.
“The SEC is prepared to support your efforts to access funds through any requisite documentation from our end,” he said, adding that since Andhra Pradesh was not alone in the present situation, states in similar situation can make a common pleading.
Defending his decision to release his letter to the media, the SEC said that the gist of the CS’ correspondence to him had already been appearing in press, and as such, he was “compelled” to release the letter to the media.
“I am genuinely saddened by several instances of ill-informed and vitriolic attacks directed against both the Commission and me personally,” he lamented.
The SEC sought to dismiss allegations that he took a unilateral decision without consulting the CS or state health secretary. He revealed, through the letter, that the CS met him on March 14 when he suggested to her to talk to the union health ministry.
“The health secretary did not provide any data though I have been in constant touch with him,” he said, adding that conversations with state officials were initiated from his end.