The Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission on Saturday issued directions to the DGP to confine Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Minister P Ramachandra Reddy to his residential premises till the four-phase panchayat elections conclude on February 21.
Invoking powers under Article 234K of the Constitution, SEC Dr N Ramesh Kumar issued the order with a view to “hold free and fair elections and to insulate the District Collectors and Returning Officers in the state from fear psychoses emanating due to threats and warnings issued through the media”. “During this period, he will not have access to media with a view to prevent making possible inciteful utterances that will have an adverse impact on the ongoing elections to the local bodies as well as on general law and order situation,” the order stated.
The measures will not prevent the minister from accessing medical aid and such other exigencies warranting inevitable movement as deemed reasonable, the SEC said. It does not prevent Reddy from disposing of official papers in any manner or incapacitate him in discharging his legitimate responsibilities as a minister, it said.
The move comes in the wake of a stand-off between the YSR Congress government and the poll panel over the conduct of elections to local bodies. The state government was opposing the elections citing the pandemic, but the poll panel later won a legal battle in favour of the elections.
The SEC noted that Reddy recently held a media conference in which he said that “the Collectors and Returning Officers in the State are warned not to obey the instructions of the madcap Election Commissioner”. “If they follow the Commission’s instructions (preventing unanimous elections), action will be taken against them and they will be blacklisted. This Commissioner will be there till the end of March but our government will continue beyond and we will take you to task. The Returning Officers are to disregard the Commissioner’s directions and declare all unanimous elections. The Commissioner is doing these things to gain MP/MLC seat from Telugu Desam Party. The people of the State are behind us. Unanimous elections shall continue,” Reddy had said, according to the SEC.
Directing the DGP to ensure compliance of the order, the SEC noted that the Commission had looked at various alternatives and avenues of remedial action. “This is an unprecedented occurrence hitting at the foundations of our democratic institutions and will rend asunder the democratic fabric. In the process, the democratic ethos will suffer an irreparable damage…orders issued are in the nature of reasonable restrictions and are essentially preventive measures,’’ the order stated.
Several YSRCP leaders condemned the SEC’s Order.
“I am not opposing it. I am only saying that these kinds of gag orders issued by the SEC in connivance with TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu indicate that the SEC has gone mad. People will certainly teach them lessons for this,” Reddy told reporters, according to PTI.