Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission orders the State DGP to ‘confine’ P. Ramachandra Reddy, Minister for Panchayat Raj and Rural Development, at home until the local elections are over on February 21

Published : February 07, 2021 13:21 IST

Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar , Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner, addressing a press conference in Kurnool January 29. Photo: U. SUBRAMANYAM

The ongoing feud between the Andhra Pradesh government and the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission (SEC) took another controversial turn with the SEC issuing orders to the State’s Director General of Police (DGP) to ensure that P. Ramachandra Reddy, Minister for Panchayat Raj and Rural Development, is “confined” to his home until February 21, allegedly for his intemperate remarks against the State Election Commissioner and the SEC. The State goes in for local/gram panchayat elections from February 9. The elections, which are in four phases, will conclude on February 21.

Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, the State Election Commissioner, has had a running battle with the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy government over the past few months, with the government trying every rule in the book and otherwise to dislodge him. The SEC, in its order, said it had carefully looked at various alternatives and avenues of remedial action and was invoking its plenary powers under Article 243K of the Constitution and directing the DGP to “confine” the Minister to his residential premises until the completion of the local/gram panchayat elections.

Ramesh Kumar further instructed the DGP to ensure that the Minister does not have access to the media to “prevent [the Minister from] 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 in Chittoor district and elsewhere”. The Commissioner’s order stated that the confinement was in the nature of reasonable restrictions and were essentially preventive measures to ensure free and fair elections and to enable voters to exercise their franchise freely, “uninfluenced by threats and intimidation”.

According to the SEC order, P. Ramachandra Reddy had ordered Collectors, who are also the District Election Authorities, and Returning Officers in the State not to obey the instructions of the “madcap Election Commissioner”. If they did, action would be taken against them, and such officials would also be blacklisted once the elections were over. The SEC said the threatening nature of the utterances of the Minister was a serious breach of the rule of law and tenets of the Constitution of India.

Ramesh Kumar said: “This is an unprecedented occurrence, hitting at the foundations of our democratic institutions. In the process, the democratic ethos will suffer an irreparable damage.”

Taking a serious view of the Minister’s utterances, Ramesh Kumar said innumerable complaints had been received from political parties and concerned citizens expressing apprehension over the conduct of the elections and the sanctity of local body elections since the statement was made by the Minister.

According to Ramesh Kumar, the Minister also accused the Election Commissioneer of favouring the opposition Telugu Desam Party in the hopes of getting nominated by the party as a Member of Parliament or a Member of the Legislative Council.

Reacting to the confinement order, P. Ramachandra Reddy said: “I am not opposing it. I am only saying that these kind of gag orders issued by the Election Commissioner in connivance with TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu indicates that the Commissioner Ramesh Kumar has gone mad. People will certainly teach them lessons over this.”