AP Panchayat Polls: Election Commissioner orders confinement of Minister to home

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(Eds: Adds more details, police reaction) Amaravati, Feb 6 (PTI): In a rare occurrence, the AP State Election Commission on Saturday issued orders to the Director General of Police to ensure that Minister P Ramachandra Reddy is 'confined' to his home till February 21 for his alleged remarks against the commission.

Panchayat polls in the state are scheduled to begin from February 9 and will go on till February 21 in four phases.

SEC Ramesh Kumar, in his order, said the Commission had carefully looked at various alternatives and avenues of remedial action and was invoking its plenary powers under Article 243K of the Constitution and directing the DGP to 'confine' the Minister for Panchayat Raj and Rural Development to his residential premises till completion of Gram Panchayat elections, which would conclude on February 21.

The orders issued are in the nature of reasonable restrictions and are essentially preventive measures, taken recourse to ensure free and fair elections and to enable the voters to exercise their franchise freely 'uninfluenced by threats and intimidation', the Order said.

According to the SEC Order, the Minister, in a press conference on Thursday, warned that Collectors and Returning Officers not to obey the instructions of the 'madcap Election Commissioner' and if they do so (preventing forced unanimous elections), action will be taken against those officials and they will be blacklisted after the polls are over.

Reddy also allegedly attributed political motives to the SEC, saying Ramesh Kumar was favouring the opposition Telugu Desam Party with a view to get its MP or MLC seat in future.

Reacting to SECs order, Reddy said he just watched the news in TV channels and if the DGP has to implement the SECs Order, he can do it.

'I am not opposing it.

I am only saying that these kinds of gag orders issued by the SEC in connivance with TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu indicate that the SEC has gone mad.

People will certainly teach them lessons for this,' Reddy told reporters.

Several YSRCP leaders condemned the SEC's Order.

However, these measures will not prevent the Minister from accessing medical aid and such other exigencies warranting inevitable movement as deemed reasonable, the SEC said.

During such occasions, he would be allowed to travel, but not have access to media or to his supporters and followers, the SEC said.

Also this order does not prevent Reddy from disposing of official papers in any manner or incapacitate him in discharging his legitimate responsibilities as a Minister, it said.

A senior Police official of Chittoor, the native district of Reddy, when contacted, said they have not received any Order on the confinement. PTI GDK APR ADMINISTRATOR APR ADMINISTRATOR