Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission to gather information in Feb 2021
Vijayawada: Within days of expressing readiness to conduct polls to local bodies, the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission on Tuesday took an 'in principle' decision to schedule the gram panchayat polls only in February 2021. The SEC was silent on conducting polls to the urban local bodies (ULBs) and zilla and mandal parishads which became a bone of contention between the commission and state government. With gram panchayat elections being scheduled in February, doubts were being raised if N. Ramesh Kumar, State Election Commissioner, would be able to hold polls to the remaining local bodies before his term ends in March next year. Sources in the SEC told Deccan Chronicle that holding polls to ULBs and ZPTCs is subjudice as High Court is hearing a case relating to them. Inquiries revealed that the case did not pertain only to ULBs and zilla parishads but covered the entire gambit of local bodies including gram panchayats. Secondly, there were no orders from the court to not hold elections. 'We are also surprised over the SEC decision,' a senior official said. Conducting polls to ULBs and ZPTCs is a tricky affair because the SEC himself wrote to the Centre complaining against largescale violence and forced withdrawal of nominations of rival parties by the ruling party leaders. Taking a cue from his letter, the Opposition parties unitedly demanded him to cancel unopposed elections and issue a notification beginning the poll process afresh. Ramesh Kumar also sprang a surprise by heaping praise on the state government for effective control of the Coronavirus. He made it clear that the mode code of conduct would not come into force immediately and would come into effect four weeks prior to the announcement of actual date for conduct of polls. The SEC issued proceedings for conduct of elections to gram panchayats and communicated them to Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney, Director General of Police Goutam Sawang and to all the departments concerned. The State Election Commissioner justified his act of calling for conduct of elections claiming that the elections were long overdue and they were facing no legal impediments. The actual schedule for conduct of gram panchayat elections would be finalised in due consultation with the state government, he said and added that the actual notification with schedules would be duly notified thereafter.