Decks have been cleared for the conduct of elections to the mandal and zilla parishad territorial constituencies in Andhra Pradesh on April 8 as a Division Bench of the High Court on Wednesday struck down the interim stay granted by a single judge on Tuesday. The Division Bench, however, ordered that counting of votes and declaration of results, scheduled for April 10, be not taken up till further orders.
The State Election Commission, which has already put all necessary arrangements in place, said it was ready to conduct the polling on Thursday. State Election Commissioner Nilam Sawhney conducted a teleconference with all district Collectors and took stock of the situation. She also had a telephonic conversation with Director General of Police D G Sawang on law and order issues and posting of security personnel for poll duties.
Over 2.46 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the elections for 7,220 MPTCs and 515 ZPTCs, the second and the third tiers of the Panchayat Raj Institutions in 13 districts across the state. Already, 2,371 MPTC seats and 126 ZPTC seats were won uncontested in the election process that first began in March 2020.
Elections for eight ZPTCs are not being conducted for different reasons while in the case of 11 others, they were countermanded following the death of contesting candidates, according to Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Principal Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi.
In the case of MPTCs, elections to 456 seats were not being held for different reasons, including the death of 81 candidates, he said. For MPTCs, 18,782 candidates and for ZPTCs 2,058 candidates are in the fray now. The principal opposition Telugu Desam Party has already announced that it was boycotting the parishad elections alleging that they were being conducted in an undemocratic manner.
On Tuesday, Justice U Durga Prasad of the High Court stayed the parishad election process, saying the SEC could not unilaterally take its own decision defying the direction of the Supreme Court in respect to enforcement of the model code of conduct. He passed the interim order on a petition filed by TDP leader Varla Ramaiah.
The SEC challenged the single judgeâ€™s order before a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice C Praveen Kumar, which struck down Justice Durga Prasad's order, clearing the way for the parishad elections.
Elections to mandal and zilla parishad territorial constituencies were first notified in March 2020. They were postponed on March 15, 2020 following the spurt in coronavirus cases. Only the polling and vote counting part of the election process remained pending and the state government was keen on getting it completed quickly.
Hours after assuming charge as the new State Election Commissioner, Nilam Sawhney issued a notification for resumption of the parishad poll process, setting April 8 as the day of voting and April 10 as the day of counting. Though polling will now be held as scheduled, the counting will be stalled as per the High Court order.