The Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission has sought the removal of Principal Secretary Praveen Prakash from poll duties, days after censuring two senior IAS officers for alleged dereliction in discharging their work related to gram panchayat poll. The SEC also in a letter to Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan sought the removal of the state government’s Advisor S Ramakrishna Reddy from his post for allegedly criticising him sitting in the ruling YSR Congress Party’s office.
In a letter to the Chief Secretary Adityanath Das on Thursday, SEC N Ramesh Kumar alleged Prakash was primarily responsible for scuttling a video conference convened by the commission with the District Collectors and Superintendents of Police on January 23 on poll preparedness. The State Election Commission invokes its plenary powers under Article 243 read with Article 324 to transfer Praveen Prakash, IAS, with a view to ensure free and fair elections.
“He is barred during the course of elections to have interaction with District Collectors and SPs and any other officers who either directly or indirectly deal with matters relating to elections, the SEC letter said. Praveen Prakash also seems to have given instructions to the Collectors and SPs as well as other officers not to participate in the commission meetings, it said.
The Collectors were apparently instructed not to cooperate with the poll process as well. As a result of the non-preparedness on the part of the District collectors, the commission was forced to reschedule the phase-I elections. This is a totally unconscionable act and merits serious action in the fitness of things, the SEC said.
Alleging that two senior IAS officers- Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi and M Girija Sankar, Commissioner of Panchayat Raj, failed to carry out their duties in preparing the latest electoral rolls as per January, 2021, for the ongoing Gram Panchayat polls, the SEC had earlier censured them. However, the state government rejected the commissions move saying that the SEC has no powers for it.
Ramesh Kumar also took strong exception to the remarks made by Ministers P Ramachandra Reddy and Botsa Satyanarayana and YSRCP Rajya Sabha member Vijaysai Reddy about the SEC saying they amount to violation of the Model Code of Conduct. “His (Ramakrishna Reddys) malafide and conflict of interest are apparent and he shall be dismissed forthwith as Advisor in public interest. The statements made by Sri Vijaysai Reddy, member of Parliament are also numerous and in violation of Code of Conduct, the SEC letter to the Governor said.
He requested Harichandan to seek the highest legal opinion on the issue preferably from the Attorney General, saying he did not have confidence in the States Advocate General. Meanwhile, nominations for the first phase of the polls began on Friday and polls will be held on February 9.
The Y S Jagan Mohan government and the SEC have been at loggerheads over the conduct of the local body elections with the former seeking postponement of the exercise, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing vaccination programme. While a single judge bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court earlier this month suspended the SEC’s poll schedule, a division bench, allowing an appeal by the poll body, later gave the go ahead for the elections, to be held next month.
In a setback to the state government, the Supreme Court on January 25 dismissed its appeal against the high court order saying, ‘We cannot be part of this ego battle’.