In between the crisis management of the Corona virus pandemic, the Andhra Pradesh government has reportedly sent an ordinance to Governor BB Harichandan. This amends the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act 1994 and thereby changes the tenure, eligibility and method of appointment of the State Election Commissioner (SEC).
But this is not routine legalese. The real purpose of the ordinance is to get rid of present SEC N Ramesh Kumar, a retired IAS officer.
The main change that the ordinance seeks to bring about, is to stipulate that a person who has been a Judge of the High court only can become SEC, not retired IAS officers. The tenure will be reduced to three years from five years. On both counts, Ramesh Kumar can be shown the door as he was appointed in 2016 after he retired.
But why this rush to get rid of Ramesh Kumar?
This dates back to the days before the political leadership realised the severity of the Corona virus pandemic. Ramesh Kumar postponed the local body elections by six weeks citing the pandemic. The ruling YSRCP took umbrage, accusing him of doing so at the behest of the Telugu Desam. The YSRCP leaders charged Ramesh Kumar with caste bias in favour of Chandrababu Naidu.
An upset Ramesh Kumar wrote to the Union Home Secretary, asking for central protection saying he feared for his safety. That was an embarrassment to the Andhra Pradesh government. The Jagan regime had to eat humble pie because Ramesh Kumar did prove right. With the national lockdown announced, the election process could not have been completed any way and the number of Corona positive cases in the state have justified the SEC decision.
Moreover, the YSRCP government decision to approach the Supreme court also did not achieve success as the apex court upheld the SEC decision to defer the polls, while asking Kumar to relax the model code of conduct.
But with Naidu now complaining about YSRCP leaders distributing money to people, saying they are doing so under the pretext of Corona relief and thereby influencing the poll process and Ramesh Kumar taking note, the fissures have become apparent once again.
Ramesh Kumar is not likely to go down without a fight and may move the High court challenging the government’s decision to remove him from office. Naidu too has written to the Governor protesting against the reported move to bring about an ordinance.