Hours after the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar on Saturday issued a notification for the four-phase panchayat polls, the state government employees associations representatives threatened to boycott the elections because of the pandemic.
The employee representatives said they would see how many employees the SEC terminates.
“Government employees in Andhra Pradesh have risked their lives to control the coronavirus. Instead of appreciating, you are threatening to terminate and suspend us. We oppose this step. If you go ahead with the state panchayat polls, chaos may prevail across the state. So please cancel your election notification,” said an employee representative.
The Andhra SEC on Saturday notified the schedule for four-phase rural local body elections whose nomination process would begin in the next two days.
The employee drew attention to the special care Kumar took while addressing the media earlier on Saturday. He had fixed a glass partition on his table and wore a mask to protect himself from the virus.
“Is your life so important without caring for our lives? While addressing the media, you spoke from behind a glass, all the people in the state watched it. Should we discharge election duties and lose our lives,” he asked the Andhra SEC.
He warned the SEC that if he goes ahead not paying heed to the appeal by the employees, then he would face difficulties.
“So do not scare us and cause paranoia. We will see how many employees you will terminate,” he said.
The representative reminded the SEC about what he did more than two years ago when the panchayat polls were supposed to be held then.
“Why didn’t you conduct the elections back then. Why are you trying to kill all of us by conducting the elections amid the pandemic,” he added.
He appealed to Kumar not to risk the lives of employees, adding that they would undertake election duties only after receiving the vaccination jabs.
Another employee representative said that they are scared at the rapid pace at which the SEC is proceeding to conduct the polls amid the pandemic and the gigantic vaccination drive.
“I appreciate the care Kumar took for himself to ward off coronavirus by fixing a glass partition. Will he provide similar protection to employees?” he asked.
Despite taking similar care, he said, many employees succumbed to the virus, including a general medicine professor in a medical college in Visakhapatnam.
Mandating the employees to urgently take up election duty amid the pandemic is a huge discouragement as most of them are waiting to receive the vaccine.
Another representative said that the SEC postponed the polls in March 2020 when there were fewer infections but is eager to conduct them when the vaccination drive is taking place.
“People are not ready to cooperate, officers are not ready to cooperate. Life is more important, take back your decision. It will not be good if the SEC goes ahead obstinately,” he opined.
These elections were originally supposed to be held in 2018 when the tenure of the local bodies expired back, but Kumar chose not to hold them.
However, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy thought of going to the polls in March 2020 but Kumar did not give the nod citing the coronavirus pandemic which led to a major standoff between the two.
The Chief Minister accused Kumar of acting at the behest of opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, during whose tenure as the Chief Minister he was appointed. Reddy had tried to replace him which backfired as the SEC has constitutional protection equal to a Supreme Court judge.
With just two more months to go as the SEC, Kumar is keen on conducting the polls which the state government has opposed citing the coronavirus pandemic and the vaccination drive.
The Supreme Court might take a decision on Monday on the state government’s petition to postpone the elections.