Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission (SEC) chief Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar today left the state government stunned when he issued orders for Panchayat Raj Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy to be placed under house arrest.
Kumar directed AP DGP Damodar Goutam Sawang to place the minister under house arrest till February 21, and asked that the minister be barred from speaking to the media for the duration.
Speaking on the matter, he made clear the fact that the SEC had taken the decision in order to ensure the "free and fair conduct" of the upcoming Panchayat elections in the state.
"The decision taken by us will help the people of Andhra Pradesh exercise their franchise without any fear or coercion," the SEC chief said.
On the other hand, most state cabinet ministers were left rather vexed by the SEC head's move, and lashed out at him for it.
The move is a significant one as Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy has been at the forefront of the group of leaders who have been targeting the SEC for deciding to conduct the elections despite the lack of the AP government's support for the decision.
Reacting to the orders for his arrest, Reddy warned warn all the officers working with the SEC that they would be blacklisted for as long as the YSR Congress Party remained in power.
Today's events follow weeks of tension between the SEC and the state government over the issue of the elections. While the Opposition, led by the TDP, has openly been supporting the SEC and lambasting the government
for its "reluctance" to conduct the elections, the ruling party's leaders have been attacking the SEC and SEC head Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar.
Just yesterday, MLA K Roja called Kumar "insane"
for stopping the unanimous elections of local body representatives in several villages of AP.