Jagan government sacks SEC amid row over local body polls

Vijayawada: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy launches COVID-19 rapid testing kits at the Chief Minister’s Office in Vijayawada on Apr 8, 2020. (Photo: IANS)

Amaravati, April 10 (IANS) Cracking the whip, the Andhra Pradesh government Friday removed N. Ramesh Kumar as the State Election Commissioner (SEC) soon after issuing an ordinance to reduce the SEC’s term to three years.

The action capped nearly a month-long row between the YSR Congress Party government and Ramesh Kumar after the latter postponed the local body elections citing precautionary measures required to check the spread of coronavirus.

The Government Order (GO) removing Kumar was issued after Governor Viswabhusan Harichandan gave his assent to an ordinance reducing the tenure of the SEC to three years from the current five years.

Kumar had strained relations with the Chief Minister Y S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, who had personally met the Governor to complain against him on March 14, hours after the SEC postponed the elections to rural and urban local bodies were scheduled on March 21 and 23 respectively.

The Chief Minister had slammed the SEC for his unilateral decision and alleged that he acted at the behest of Leader of Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu, who was unable to digest the fact that YSR Congress Party was heading to sweep the polls.

The High Court and the Supreme Court upheld the SEC decision to postpone the elections because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the apex court relaxed the poll code till announcement of the next schedule

Last week, Ramesh again angered Jagan government by issuing a directive to the administration to keep the local body election contestants away from distribution of government aid to the poor during the lockdown period. He passed the order acting on complaints from opposition parties that the ruling party contestants were making use of the government money for their personal goodwill among the electorate.

Meanwhile, all the opposition parties slammed the Jagan government, dubbing its action “undemocratic”.

Main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) said it was exploring options to legally challenge the ordinance in court.

TDP chief and Leader of Opposition Chandrababu Naidu, in a letter to the Governor, sought his intervention to uphold the rule of law and democratic values.

He said the government brought in amendment to Section 200 of APPR Act, 1994 with vicious design to remove the present SEC.

“The process of local body elections is currently on. In such circumstances, what is the necessity to bring in amendment through backdoor in the form of ordinance to change the term and eligibility of the SEC,” he asked.

Naidu said Ramesh Kumar was appointed by the Governor on January 30, 2016 for a period of five years and alleged that amendment to the term is illegal. He argued that the amendment will be applicable only after the completion of five-year term of present SEC.

BJP’s state unit President Kanna Lakshminarayana said the Chief Minister was on a spree of removing every Constitutional body that he does not get along with him.

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