AP: 46 village volunteers, govt employees suspended for attending poll campaigns

The Chief Electoral Officer of AP said that action has been taken against 46 persons working with the government for violating poll code. This includes 16 village volunteers who attended a YSRCP rally.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Mukesh Kumar Meena
Andhra Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Mukesh Kumar Meena Youtube/AP CEO
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Sixteen village volunteers in Andhra Pradesh are among 46 persons who have faced action for violating the Model Code of Conduct by attending a campaign event of a political party or directly campaigning for it. Andhra Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Mukesh Kumar Meena confirmed that action had been taken against 46 people including village and ward volunteers, as well as regular government employees such as Village Revenue Officers (VROs), and contract-based employees.

On March 19, 16 village volunteers were suspended by the Ambajipeta Mandal Parishad Development Officer for attending a YSRCP campaign event called ‘Siddham’ on March 18, two days after the election schedule was announced and the poll code came into force. 

The village and ward volunteer system was launched by the YSRCP government in 2019 to carry out last-mile governance. More than 2 lakh volunteers from various villages were appointed in the system to act as points of access for welfare schemes in the state. The suspension orders have been issued in the backdrop of opposition parties alleging profiling of voters and manipulation of electoral rolls by volunteers. Opposition leaders including TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu and Jana Sena Party president Pawan Kalyan have, in the past, alleged that the village and ward volunteers were gathering citizen's data illegally, at the behest of the ruling YSRCP.

Days before the election Model Conduct of Code came into force, Chief Secretary KS Jawahar Reddy ordered district officials to prohibit volunteers from participating in election-related duties.  

Mukesh Kumar said that while the regular employees will be suspended, volunteers and contract-based employees will be removed from their posts. He also specified that while these are consequences for those working with the government who attend a political party’s meeting, criminal cases will be registered against those who actively campaign for a particular party or candidate. “Once the poll code comes into force, no one connected to the government can move with any political party or leader, or participate in any political activity,” the CEO said. 

The 16 village volunteers who were suspended in Dr Ambedkar Konaseema district were from Irusumanda, Mosalapalli and Vakalagaruvu villages. The poll schedule was announced on March 16, and these volunteers allegedly took part in a YSRCP campaign rally in these villages on March 18. 

Read: Explainer: Why JSP, TDP are attacking Jagan govt’s volunteer system over data privacy

Read: How much data do village and ward volunteers in Andhra Pradesh collect

“Despite the Model Code of Conduct for the 2024 general election being in force from March 16, the volunteers who are responsible for performing government duties participated in the political meeting organised by the YSRCP party… The village volunteers are directed not to leave their respective headquarters without prior permission from concerned authorities and are directed to submit an explanation within three days. Further ction will be taken on the basis of available evidence,” the suspension order issued by the Ambajipeta Mandal Parishad Development Officer said. The CEO declared that volunteers found guilty of violating the MCC will be sacked. 

Simultaneous elections to the 175-member Assembly and all 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state are scheduled to be held on May 13.

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