Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das on Monday wrote to Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan to highlight problems in conducting an election after the Supreme Court dismissed its plea to defer the panchayat polls in the state, reported NDTV.
In his letter, Das said that vaccination against coronavirus of about seven lakh frontline workers, including tens of thousands of police and other officials needed to hold the elections, has been scheduled to take place after around 3.8 lakh doctors and healthcare workers are inoculated.
“... the polling personnel will not be able to be vaccinated as session site allocated will be based on home/office location but they will be deployed elsewhere [for the polls],” Das wrote. “Those who are vaccinated for the first dose at one location will not be available at the same location for second dose.”
The chief secretary also pointed out that Covid-19 vaccination protocols call for a period of observation to monitor for adverse effects and that it is advised not to put the beneficiary under unnecessary stress. “In the above backdrop [of the top court allowing polls to take place] we seek your guidance to achieve twin objectives of vaccination and conduct of elections,” he said.
While the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commission has announced that the polls would take place in four phases on February 5, 9, 13 and 17, the state government had predicted that the vaccination of healthcare and frontline workers would be completed by February 28.
Earlier in the day, the state government led by Jagan Mohan Reddy challenged the poll panel’s decision in the Supreme Court, seeking to have the elections postponed. The court, however, rejected the plea, saying that it cannot allow “lawlessness” in a state because of an “ego battle”, the Hindustan Times reported.
“Sometimes, you come up with one excuse; sometimes, you challenge appointment of an officer [Andhra Pradesh Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar],” the bench said. “It is a political process and you are not letting a political process be completed for the last six months on one pretext or another. It is not that in this country, no election has taken place during these times. It was conducted in Bihar.”
The state had earlier wanted to hold the polls when the coronavirus pandemic began but Kumar was against it. Later in May, the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party sacked Kumar, alleging that his action were politically motivated. He was then reinstated by the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
Now, Kumar has announced the dates of the elections, while the state government wishes to have it postponed.
During the hearing, Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the state, told the court that the decision to defer the polls was in the interest of its employees and that the bench could prescribe an election scheduled. However, the bench led by Justice Sanjay K Kaul said that it could not ask the state election commissioner to stop functioning.
“What is this happening in the state?” the court said. “Your chief secretary and principal secretary don’t go. Your DGP is absent. Your employees’ associations are issuing resolutions against the election commission. We cannot allow this lawlessness.”
The notification for the elections was issued on January 23 and the nomination process for phase-1 was expected to commence on Monday. However, it could not take place as district collectors and panchayat officers refused to start the process as there were no instructions from the state government.