Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday met the state Chief Electoral Officer Gopala Krishna Dwivedi in Amravati over alleged "undemocratic and arbitrary actions" of the Election Commission of India (EC) with regard to the transfer of several state officials and the raids by Income Tax authorities on TDP leaders. He also staged a sit-in protest at the Secretariat along with his party leaders.
Even as the state is set to go for simultaneous polls on Thursday, April 11, Prakasam District Superintendent Koya Praveen was transferred by the EC to a non-election post, and replaced by Siddharth Kaushal, a 2012 batch IPS officer.
Following the transfer, the CM has written to EC accusing it of being autocratic and having a partisan attitude towards handling of elections in the state.
Naidu in his letter alleged that EC transferred Srikakulam district Collector even before election schedule announcement without assigning any reason only a day after he joined. He said that the Collector was from a Scheduled Tribe and the first civil servant from his community, while adding that his transfer will affect the Collectors' morale.
Naidu alleged that the transfers of police officers including Additional DG of Police (Intelligence), AB Venkateshwara Rao and Chief Secretary, AC Punetha are proof that that EC is acting on behalf of YSRCP under the guidance of BJP.
Naidu stated that despite the state-constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT) identifying around 500 names who anonymously sent Form-7 applications and resorted to cyber crime, EC failed to give IP addresses or act in a timely manner.
The TDP chief in his strongly worded statement accused EC and said, "it is strange and surprising that whenever the opposition YSR Congress made a complaint, the Election Commission of India not only promptly responded but also took action without verifying the facts and without giving opportunity to the officers against whom the complaint was made."
He alleged that EC's alleged 'prejudiced action' has affected the morale not only of the officers concerned but also of the entire police force in Andhra Pradesh.
Naidu alleged that the transfers of police officers following the murder of YS Vivekananda Reddy have violated the "principles of natural justice".
He accused the Opposition of making absurd claims and of concocting complaints to EC against police officers, when the police started questioning 'culprits' in the case.
The “application of different yardsticks" for giving appointment to the political parties and also acting upon the complaints made by other political parties by the EC, has led to serious reservations and suspicion among the people of Andhra Pradesh, said Naidu.
Naidu stated that "the Election Commission of India should not fall prey to the baseless allegations of such a political party (YSRCP), whose leader itself is involved in 31 criminal cases."
He said that the deliberate inaction as far as TDP complaints are concerned and the prompt action on complaints filed by the YSRCP, is strengthening the suspicion that EC is toeing the line of BJP and other parties, which are in connivance with it.
Appoint observer with highest integrity
Naidu alleged that KK Sharma, a retired IPS officer who has been deputed as police observer for the state of Andhra Pradesh, is having a close association with the BJP and RSS.
KK Sharma's appointment as observer in West Bengal had attracted protests from Trinamool Congress and CPI (M), before he was deputed in Andhra Pradesh, Naidu said.
Naidu requested the EC to shift KK Sharma to some other state and depute another officer with highest integrity and without any political background, to preserve the EC’s credibility.
Income Tax raids
According to several reports, besides I-T raids on TDP Guntur MP candidate Galla Jayadev who is seeking re-election, there were similar raids on other TDP leaders in the state.
Naidu also lamented that "ever since the elections were announced and Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came into force, income tax authorities have been targeting only the TDP candidates and its sympathisers, thus creating an atmosphere of fear and terror."
EC's credibility eroded
Referring to the recent letter sent by a group of 66 former civil servants to the President of India who claimed EC's bias in discharging its duties and that it is facing a crisis of credibility, Naidu stated that such reprimand from retired civil servants has eroded the credibility of the ECI as a neutral and non-partisan organisation for conducting free and fair polls.
He said that the transfer of Prakasam SP, Koya Praveen Kumar, has sent wrong signals in the police administration.
Reportedly there was a standoff between a local YSRCP leader in Prakasam and the district SP, Praveen Kumar before the latter’s transfer, following the arrest of a person believed to be from YSRCP.
Naidu said, "It is astonishing that the contesting candidate challenges that the SP would be transferred by evening and EC issues orders transferring the SP of Prakasam District. What kind of message is the Election Commission giving by such actions?”
While registering his protest against EC, calling its attitude "tyrannical and undemocratic" he said, "I hope that it conducts its business by giving a level playing field to all the contesting political parties in the state and upholds the democratic values and respects the Constitution of India.”