Just what went wrong between Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy and former State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar? Filter Kaapi tells you the inside story of the fallout that has now become a constitutional stand-off, with the Andhra Pradesh High court revoking the government’s order appointing a new SEC, replacing Ramesh Kumar.
When the YSRCP came to power in May last year, it decided to replace Ramesh Kumar who was appointed in 2016 by the Telugu Desam regime. The then Chief Secretary LV Subrahmanyam was reportedly tasked with the job to nudge Ramesh Kumar to put in his papers. Kumar asked for time till November.
In December 2019, Kumar met Jagan and told him he has been a career bureaucrat and there was no reason why the CM should think he would be biased in favour of the previous party in power.
“I take you at face value,” Jagan reportedly said at the end of their meeting, following which it was decided Ramesh Kumar will not be disturbed from his position as SEC.
Kumar’s unilateral decision on the grounds that the Corona pandemic would make it too risky to conduct elections, created deep fissures. While Kumar defended his decision, pointing to the pre-lockdown measures taken by the Union government, the YSRCP regime was extremely upset that the then SEC did not deem it fit to consult the Chief Secretary or the Health Secretary before taking a decision. Politically, the YSRCP was convinced Kumar had postponed the elections at the behest of Chandrababu Naidu in order to protect the TDP chief from the embarrassment of another electoral rout.
“The CM felt that the SEC had been mentally captured by his community. He felt it was not the same Ramesh who had met him in December 2019. He felt cornered and fooled and treated like a novice,” said a source privy to the development.
What followed was a verbal lashing by the CM. Jagan accused Ramesh of favoring his community (read Naidu’s Kamma community) and injected a caste equation into what would have been otherwise an administrative decision.
The obvious conclusion that was drawn was that Jagan was upset that the SEC had put a hurdle in his party’s possible victory in the local body polls. Sources close to the CM that is not the case.
“He in fact, said how does it matter even if YSRCP swept the polls. Or how would it matter if it came a cropper. The CM said that the local body results in no way will be an insurance for him in 2024. He was more bothered about the fact that if this was allowed, it will show that anyone can fool him in the future and that he can be taken for granted,” said a source who has the CM’s ear.
Ramesh Kumar’s subsequent missive to the Union Home Ministry asking for a central force to provide him protection only made it a point of no return.
Opinion within the YSRCP was divided over how the party should react. Finance minister B Rajendranath advised Jagan to ignore the issue.
“If Sachin Tendulkar hits a net bowler for a six, it will not be news. But if a local bowler gets Tendulkar out, it will be big news,” Rajendranath is believed to have used a cricketing analogy in order to convince the CM.
But Jagan has now decided to go to the Supreme Court to ask “Howzatt?”
The government also feels the High court should have allowed the reform process to be undertaken in the Election Commission. It had decided that a retired judge and not former IAS officers, would henceforth head the Commission.
Till the time of writing this copy, Ramesh Kumar had not responded to Filter Kaapi’s request for an interview.