Hyderabad: Amid an ongoing tussle between the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) led Andhra Pradesh government and the state election commissioner (SEC), polling for the first phase of the gram panchayat elections is scheduled for February 9. Observers have given the ruling YSRCP the edge even as opposition parties are trying to gain over the government’s attempts of ‘non-cooperation’ with the SEC.
The YSRCP-led government had earlier approached the high court and the Supreme Court seeking the postponement of the panchayat elections, but in vain. State ministers Peddi Reddy Ramachandra Reddy and Botsa Satyanarayana have cast doubts over SEC Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar and accused him of acting at the behest of the opposition Telugu Desam Party.
The Assembly privilege committee is probing Ramesh Kumar for a breach of privilege based on a complaint filed by YSRCP ministers. The complaint is over a letter written by the SEC to the Governor seeking action on the ministers for election code violations.
The tug of war between the YSRCP-led government and the SEC has been in the spotlight for some time now. In April last year the state government had removed Kumar and replaced him with former Madras High Court judge Justice V. Kanagaraj through an ordinance. Kumar challenged the ordinance in the high court. On May 29 the court directed the government to restore his appointment. The government then approached the apex court which refused to issue a stay order on the HC’s verdict.
“The ego clashes between the SEC and the YSRCP don't seem to end,” said media analyst Telakapalli Ravi. “Being the ruling party the YSRCP has an edge in the elections. However, the TDP is attempting to garner support over the conflict between SEC and the government,” he said.
In the first phase of elections sarpanches in 523 panchayats were elected unanimously and the majority of them were supported by the YSRCP. However, On Thursday, the SEC asked the collectors of Chittoor and Guntur to not to declare the results of the unanimously elected sarpanches as a large number of sarpanches from the two districts were unanimously elected as compared to those from other districts.
“There were numerous incidents in the state where YSRCP leaders joined hands with the police authorities in forcing candidates from other parties to step down so that their candidates can win the elections unanimously,” alleged V. Srinivasulu, a CPI(M) leader from the state.
Unrest in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram
The opposition TDP and the Bharatiya Janata Partiy are attempting to gain in the panchayat polls by blaming the YSRCP for temple desecration incidents in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts. On December 28 last year an idol of lord Ram was desecrated in Ramatheertha in Vizianagaram district. Opposition parties have staged numerous protests in the region accusing the YSRCP leaders of being responsible for the incident.
On January 31, YSRCP and TDP cadres clashed with each other in Nimmada panchayat in Srikakulam district. On February 2 the police arrested TDP state unit president Atchannaidu for his alleged role in the violence.
Numerous clashes between YSRCP and TDP supporters have been reported in Kadapa and Chittoor districts in Rayalaseema.
“It is undemocratic that the YSRCP is using police forces for electoral gains,” alleged Srinivasulu.
“The BJP is campaigning around temple attacks to garner support but the saffron party is nowhere in the race in rural Andhra Pradesh,” said Ravi.
In Anantapur district it has been reported that candidates for sarpanch enter into an unwritten understanding to ensure a candidate wins the post for alleged monetary and post electoral gains.
The polling for second, third and fourth phase of the panchayat elections are scheduled on February 13, 17 and 21 respectively.