Andhra Assembly resolves to defer panchayat polls

The Andhra Pradesh Assembly on Friday resolved to defer the rural local bodies elections scheduled in February 2021 by the State Election Commission and incorporate a legal provision in the AP Panchayat Raj Act 1994 to handle the “situation”.

Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy set the tone for elections’ postponement during a short discussion on coronavirus when he exhorted that the next three months are of crucial nature, requiring people to take all precautions.

He cited the case of the US which saw a spike in infections after its recent Presidential elections.

Health Minister Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas said: “The state is obligated to ensure the health of its citizens and at the very minimum not to initiate any activity which compromises their life and health.”

He said the state machinery has already communicated that it would be imprudent to schedule any elections at this time and this resolution has in its context the decision of the State Election Commission to schedule the elections in February 2021.

“The concern for public health cannot be a subject matter of competitive assessment, opinion… and the state’s bona fide opinion on such matter ought not to have been brushed aside,” he highlighted.

The Health Minister has also highlighted that no two states are comparable with regard to the situation of the pandemic and its effects, noting the incidence of Covid-19 is eight times more than Bihar and six times of Rajasthan as revealed by intensive testing.

“Local bodies elections and the legitimacy of the elected members is directly related to voters’ choice. If the voters do not turn out to exercise their franchise to choose their representatives out of fear of Covid and danger to their lives?” he said.

He said the hasty conduct of elections will distract people fighting the pandemic, as five lakh staff are required to conduct the elections.

According to Srinivas, most of the employees have been representing their inability to conduct elections.

“While the Assembly recognizes with respect the independence of the constitutional bodies specifically conferred with powers, it notes that unilateral decisions without considering bona fide concerns of the elected government would be inconsistent with the constitutional scheme,” he said.

Citing the Telangana Act which mandates that elections shall be decided by the SEC in concurrence with the state government, he said: “The APPR Act does not have such a provision. In this state, an unseemly situation has arisen, where the unilateralism of the SEC has been noticed even by the Supreme Court of India, which directed that further decisions after the initial postponement of the PRI elections, shall be in consultation with the state.”

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