First phase of panchayat polls in Andhra Pradesh schedule released by SEC

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Amaravati: Amidst war-of-nerves between the AP Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy and his bête noir and State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Remesh Kumar over the conduct of panchayat polls, the latter dared to release the first phase schedule, armed with the High Court verdict.  This notwithstanding the fact the state government has moved the Supreme Court against the state high court verdict staying polls by the same court’s single-bench judge.

He said the elections will be held in four phases. Except in Vizianagaram and Prakasham districts, the first phase election will be held across 14 divisions of the remaining 11 districts. Polling will be held in various mandals of three divisions of Srikakulam district and one each from the remaining 11 districts.

First phase of election will be held on February 5, second phase on February 9, third phase on February 13 and the fourth phase on February 14. Polling will be held from 6.30 am to 3.30 pm and counting will commence from 4.00 pm on the same day. For the first phase, nominations can be filed from January 25 to 27 from 10.30 am to 5.00 pm. While scrutiny of nominations will be held on January 28, nominations can be withdrawn till 3.00 pm of January 31. Final list of contesting candidates will be published on the same day after 3.00 pm. Polling and counting will be held on February 5. It may be recalled that the SEC and the state government were at loggerheads over the conduct of the elections with the Commission wanting to conduct the elections in February and the government not inclined for the same citing the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination process.

Meanwhile, announcing the notification for the first phase of elections, SEC had expressed dissatisfaction over the functioning of Panchayat Raj department higher officials. He said that the SEC was forced to conduct the elections based on the electoral rolls published in 2019 because of the failure of the Panchayat Raj department officials. “This is painful that more than 3.5 lakh new voters enrolled in 2020 were deprived of exercising their franchise”, he said and added action would be initiated against the responsible at an appropriate time. Stating that there is mixed response from the government with respect to conduct of elections, he said the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police have immense experience in administration and he is having both personal and professional association with the duo. “I strongly believe in resolving the issues through discussions,” he said. Ramesh Kumar, however, found fault with the Panchayat Raj department Principal Secretary and Commissioner.

He also took exception to the letter written by Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das being released to the media before it reached him and wanted to maintain secrecy in this regard. Stating that the state government and its machinery will be responsible, if hurdles are created for the conduct of elections, he said all those responsible will have to pay the price. Ramesh Kumar said that the SEC will inform all the issues to the Apex Court when the petition filed by the State Government comes for hearing.

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