As we predicted, the Andhra Pradesh government and the State Election Commissioner (SEC) are at it again. The bone of contention is the conduct of gram panchayat elections, with the SEC keen to hold the polls in February before he hangs up his boots and the government equally determined not to let him have his way. A legal battle now seems more or less certain.
Constitutionally, the SEC is well within his rights to seek to conduct the polls under Article 243(K). The only question is whether it is advisable at a time when a second wave of Covid-19 is feared as the government argues. Several states have gone in for elections in the last few months and more, including Telangana, are geared up for the same.
So, the state government’s stance, despite having logic, may not carry weight and is liable to be quashed in a court of law. Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, the SEC, on the other hand, has been seeking to take the moral high ground, citing his constitutional duty. However, his conduct ever since the election process began in March has been less than inspiring.
His unilateral move to first defer the polls, shoot off a missive to the Centre against the state government and even claim threat to life has given rise to the perception among the ruling YSRC leaders that he has been acting at the behest of the opposition TDP.
A lot of water has flown down the bridge since as the government sought to oust him in vain. Given this bad blood between the two sides, the trust deficit is too wide for them to reconcile their differences and arrive at a decision in public interest.
While the court may finally decide on the elections, what this sorry tale underscores is the danger of politicisation of constitutional posts. There must be a debate on whether to have a collegium to appoint the SEC to ensure that he/she doesn’t become a pawn in the hands of the powers-that-be and to prevent the government of the day from having its cronies in office. If things continue as is, public trust in the sacred institution will be eroded completely.