Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney has been appointed as the new State Election Commissioner (SEC) after months of a bitter feud between outgoing SEC Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar and Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan gave his assent to Nilam’s appointment, the government said in a press statement.
The former IAS officer is presently the Principal Advisor of the Chief Minister.
With the tenure of current State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh concluding on March 31, Nilam has been chosen to replace Ramesh.
The incumbent SEC was in loggerheads with the Jagan-led government since last year when he refused to conduct local body polls citing the coronavirus pandemic, which irked the ruling YSRCP government.
Reportedly the state had sent a list of three retired IAS officers, Nilam Sawhney, M Samuel and L Premachandra Reddy, and the Governor cleared the name of Nilam for the post.
Nilam Sawhney is a 1984 batch IAS officer from the Andhra Pradesh cadre. She was the first woman Chief Secretary of the state. When Nilam was working as a Secretary of Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, she was repatriated to the Andhra cadre on the request of the Jagan government in 2019.
The incumbent SEC Ramesh and the YSRCP-ruled government had a bitter face-off towards the end of the former’s career leading to accusations and counter-accusations. The relationship soured when the SEC cancelled the local body polls in March 2020, citing the coronavirus pandemic, against the wishes of the government.
This led to the accusations of Ramesh being close to Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu. Subsequently, the government unceremoniously removed him from the post through an ordinance reducing the term of the SEC from five years to three years. The decision of the government was challenged by the SEC in the High Court, following which he was reinstated by the government in July last year.
A criminal case was also registered by the CID against the incumbent SEC over a letter, which he had written to the Union Home Secretary, alleging a threat to his life following his confrontation with the Jagan-led government.