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Panchayat Polls: Elections to commence from Feb 5 to Feb 14

Even as the tussle between the State election commission and the state government grows with regard to the Panchayat Election, State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar issued notification for conduct of the first phase of elections to Gram Panchayats in Andhra Pradesh. 
 
Even as the state government sought postponement of panchayat elections citing ongoing Covid vaccination drive and filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, the elections will be held in four phases.
 
Except in Vizianagaram and Prakasam districts, the first phase election will be held across 14 divisions of the remaining 11 districts. Polling will be held in various mandals of three divisions of Srikakulam district and one each from the remaining 11 districts, a press release said.
 
First phase of election will be held on February 5, second phase on February 9, third phase on February 13 and the fourth phase on February 14. Polling will be held from 6.30 am to 3.30 pm and counting will commence from 4.00 pm on the same day.
 
For the first phase, nominations can be filed from January 25 to 27 from 10.30 am to 5.00 pm. While scrutiny of nominations will be held on January 28, nominations can be withdrawn till 3.00 pm of January 31. The final list of contesting candidates will be published on the same day after 3.00 pm. Polling and counting will be held on February 5.
 
It may be recalled that the SEC and the state government were at loggerheads over the conduct of the elections with the Commission wanting to conduct the elections in February and the government not inclined for the same citing the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination process. 
 
The Andhra Pradesh High Court had recently cleared the decks for the conduct of elections and the state government went for appeal against the HC order in the Supreme Court.
 
Meanwhile, announcing the notification for the first phase of elections, SEC Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar expressed dissatisfaction over the functioning of Panchayat Raj department higher officials. He said that the SEC was forced to conduct the elections based on the electoral rolls published in 2019 because of the failure of the Panchayat Raj department officials. 
 
“This is painful that more than 3.5 lakh new voters enrolled in 2020 were deprived of exercising their franchise,” he said and added action would be initiated against the responsible at an appropriate time.
 
Stating that there is mixed response from the government with respect to conduct of elections, he said the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police have immense experience in administration and he is having both personal and professional association with the duo.
 
“I strongly believe in resolving the issues through discussions,’" he said. Ramesh Kumar, however, found fault with the Panchayat Raj department Principal Secretary and Commissioner.
 
Stating that the state government and its machinery will be responsible, if hurdles are created for the conduct of elections, he said all those responsible will have to pay the price. Ramesh Kumar added that the SEC will inform all the issues to the Apex Court when the petition filed by the State Government comes for hearing.

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