AP gram panchayat election:SEC reschedules phase one of polls, says process has been vitiated

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Amaravati, Jan 25 (PTI) The Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission has rescheduled phase one of the elections to gram panchayats since the election process has been 'vitiated', even as the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the state government's appeal against the High Court order upholding SEC decision to hold the polls.

The SEC on January 23 issued the notification for the gram panchayat elections to be conducted in four phases from February 5, with the nomination process scheduled to begin on Monday.

But, with the state government authorities failing to make required arrangements, the nomination process could not begin across the state, barring in a couple of places.

'The Commission came to a conclusion that the election process has been vitiated as the district administration has not made arrangements for receiving nominations for the Phase-I Gram Panchayat elections scheduled from January 25.

Under the circumstances, the Commission reschedules the Phase-1 elections,' State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar Ramesh Kumar said in a fresh notification.

The previous schedules fixed for the subsequent phases remain unaltered.

As per the revised notification, the panchayat elections slated for February 5 would now be held on February 21, nomination process for which would begin on February 10.

Ramesh Kumar directed that Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi and Commissioner M Girija Shankar be replaced forthwith.

The SEC had already issued proceedings seeking replacement of Guntur and Chittoor district Collectors, Tirupati Urban Superintendent of Police and six other senior police officers, whom he called 'tainted officers'.

Ramesh Kumar claimed both the Panchayat Raj Principal Secretary and the Commissioner failed completely in providing the latest (2021) electoral rolls despite a clear assurance given to the High Court.

'As a result of their negligent and irresponsible action, a grave situation has arisen wherein 3.6 lakh young voters who crossed the age of 18 years stand to lose their constitutional right to adult franchise.The Commission has taken it very seriously,' Ramesh Kumar said.

Accordingly, he sought the transfer of the two heads of the Panchayat Raj Department.

The Commissioner also issued a 'Direction' to all district Collectors to indent the services of Central government employees as well as members of the Central public sector undertakings for election-related responsibilities as deemed appropriate.

'The Commission desires the District Collectors to undertake the election work without disruption by deploying the state government employees and members of state public sector, all the state government organisations and members of all state corporations and other entities in the first instance.' 'The Central government employees and members of public sector undertakings shall only be used as a last resort if inadequacies persist with regard to poll personnel,' Ramesh Kumar said.

He said the notification and its intentions were communicated to the Union Cabinet Secretary.

In a setback to YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government, the apex court on Monday dismissed its appeal against the High Court order upholding State Election Commission decision to hold gram Panchayat elections in the state saying, 'We cannot be part of this ego battle'.

The State government has sought postponement of Panchayat polls due to the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination drive.