Andhra Pradesh government got a major jolt as the Supreme Court has backed Election Commission move on postponement of local body polls amid growing Covid-19 scare. A division bench dismissed the petition of the Andhra Pradesh government challenging the SEC’s move. The apex court ruled that the SEC is the final authority to take a decision on conducting elections. It, however, found fault with the poll panel for continuing the model code of conduct even while postponing the election process. The SEC was directed to lift the model code of conduct for now and observed that the same could be reimposed four weeks before the announcement of the revised election schedule.
The court also asked the government not to announce any new schemes that would influence the voters. It, however, said the government can continue with the ongoing developmental programmes. The SEC was directed not to interfere with the developmental activities. State Election Commissioner N. Ramesh Kumar had postponed the elections to rural and urban local bodies by six weeks, citing the threat posed by the outbreak of coronavirus. The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government, however, reacted strongly to his action with Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy complaining to the state governor.
The Chief Minister had also alleged that the SEC acted at the behest of opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) as the ruling party was heading to sweep the polls. Meanwhile, the ruling and opposition parties interpreted the Supreme Court order differently. YSRCP termed it as a big blow to SEC which has overstepped its limits by unilaterally postponing the election process of local bodies and announcing that the model code of conduct (MCC) will continue. YSRCP spokesman Ambati Rambabu said the apex court passed serious comments on the conduct of the SEC and pointedly questioned as to how can it postpone elections on one hand and continue MCC on the other.
TDP said the Supreme Court judgment was a slap on the face of the YSRCP government. Senior TDP leader Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said the apex court has justified the action taken by the SEC. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also welcomed the Supreme Court order and asked the YSRCP government to respect the SEC which is a constitutional authority.