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AP Local Body Elections: No Revocation Of Order

The AP State Election Commissioner wrote a lengthy letter to the Chief Secretary in response to her seeking revocation of the order to postpone the elections.
Hyderabad | 17th March 2020
Dr N Ramesh Kumar, State Election Commissioner, Andhra Pradesh, today addressed a lengthy letter to the Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney in response to her Tuesday's missive seeking revocation of the order to postpone the local body elections in the state.

The letter gives an indication that the SEC is not going to revoke its decision to postponement the elections.

Kumar made it clear that he was writing the letter primarily to clear the misconception that the SEC was ill-informed about the coronavirus threat and the financial implications for the states.

"The SEC is neither alone nor ignorant. SECs are a very informed and pro-active group, and some of the approaches I have suggested have emanated from our active information sharing platform," he said.

He also added that he was genuinely saddened by the several instances of ill-informed and vitriolic attacks directed against the commission and against him personally.

The SEC also said that there had been concerted attacks on the State Election Commission that the postponement of the elections would likely hamper the possibility of accessing the 14th Finance Commission grants meant for local bodies.

"I want to set the record straight in this matter. I have worked as Finance Secretary prior to my stint in Raj Bhavan and handled the Finance Commission matters, and have an intimate working knowledge. For release of funds to local bodies (basic grants and performance grants), holding of elections to local bodies is one of the conditions. In the past, the state government was able to access successfully withheld funds after holding elections, for the previous years as well."

Stating that the present election schedule was consciously evolved to complete the election process by March 31, 2020, to enable the state to make a case for accessing the withheld 14th Finance Commission grant to local bodies, he added that the coronavirus was truly a circumstance beyond anticipation. As per the information available, three other mainline states, i. e. Maharashtra, West Bengal and Orissa, had also put on hold local body elections.

"In the absence of scientific data for which no one can be faulted, I request you to refer the case to the National Task Force set up by the Government of India so as to revisit the issue. The health experts are of the view that India might have entered Stage-2. lf the task force after risk assessment is able to categorically advise holding elections in Andhra Pradesh, the SEC is prepared to readily revisit the issue before the 6-week postponement proposed," he said.

"It would appear in retrospect that the Commission is being needlessly faulted for acting just a day ahead of similarly placed states. I have a duty to safeguard the high Constitutional status of the Commission as well as to clear the air about its conscious and objective decision-making process. Please take due note as above. The constructive collaboration of the Commission shall always be available to the state and to you," he added.
filed in:  Andhra Pradesh, Elections, Local Body Elections, Municipal Bodies, Coronavirus
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