Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Election Commissioner takes on Jagan govt, seeks Central protection

This is unprecedented and is bound to embarrass the Jaganmohan Reddy government. A letter reportedly written by State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar to the Union Home Secretary is doing the rounds in which he has asked for security cover by Central forces. Ramesh Kumar, a retired IAS officer, has been under fire from the YSRCP government, led by none other than chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy, ever since last week when he postponed elections to local bodies by six weeks because of the Corona virus outbreak scare. The government wanted the polls to be held before 31 March 2020 so that it could receive Rs 5800 crore funds from the Centre.

Ramesh Kumar could not be reached for comment or to verify if the letter was indeed written by him. This was because the EC authorities claimed ignorance of such a letter. The doubt arises because Ramesh Kumar has not put his name at the end of the letter and just signed as State Election Commissioner. Incidentally, this letter comes on the back of a strong rebuttal the Commissioner had earlier sent to Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney, where he had mentioned his name at the end as N Ramesh Kumar.

[Update : When Filter Kaapi reached out to N Ramesh Kumar, asking him to clarify if the letter doing the rounds is genuine or fake, he replied cryptically : Silence is golden !” Kumar did not say that the letter was not written by him. ]

In his five-page letter, Ramesh Kumar speaks of “an unprecedented assault” on him personally. He mentions the CM, accusing him of using “the most vitriolic and offending language casting aspersions and prejudice” while other ministers and even the Assembly Speaker joined in “to heap choicest abuses and attributing malafides”. Kumar claims he has been “receiving warning and threats non-stop”. 

Ramesh Kumar’s missive comes on a day when the Supreme Court refused to intervene in the Election Commissioner’s decision to defer the polls. The only relief it gave to the Jagan sarkar was that regular welfare schemes could continue.   

If the letter is indeed true, what Ramesh Kumar has done is to make the regional issue national. YSRCP leaders have not covered themselves with glory, with the kind of language they have used for a constitutional body and its chief. While they have every right to allege a Chandrababu Naidu hand in the decision, since Ramesh Kumar was appointed when the TDP was in power in 2016, to bring it down to caste politics has lowered the quality of the discourse. 

Another fact not going in the government’s favour is that Ramesh Kumar’s decision is driven entirely by the country’s response to Covid19. Governments in every state and the Centre are insisting on social distancing. And here a four-phase poll will see the election process entailing close human contact in queues at polling stations, touching of several election-related properties and movement of several officials from different parts into villages and semi-rural areas. That is not what the doctor ordered. 

Incidentally, the state government has now shut down all educational institutions in the state.

This letter puts the state machinery on the backfoot by pointing to large-scale violence, allegedly encouraged by the ruling party. 

The letter states that Ramesh Kumar intends to stay in Hyderabad fearing for his and his family’s safety. If the letter is genuine and if the Centre responds to his SOS by providing him central security, that will not show the Andhra Pradesh political and police establishment in a good light. 

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