Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar informed the High Court on Thursday that the local body polls scheduled to be held in February will not affect COVID-19 vaccination in the state. The state government has moved the court challenging the SEC’s decision to hold local body elections in the state in February. The government had argued that government officials and personnel from police, revenue and health departments would be busy with the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination, and that having elections at this time would adversely impact the vaccination work.
In a counter affidavit filed on Thursday, the SEC responded saying that the local body polls will not interfere with the COVID-19 vaccine work, according to The New Indian Express. The state government’s counsel had previously informed the court that the Union government has issued guidelines to states regarding the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and that in the months of January and February, police personnel will have to be deployed for security, for vaccine storage and transport, and that revenue and health officials would also need to be deployed for vaccine administration work.
The SEC argued that it may take about three to six months for the vaccine to become available, pointing out that the vaccines are still in the trial phase and the Union government will eventually roll them out on a priority basis.
While the state government had previously expressed concern over the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections in the state between December and February, the SEC noted that there has been a decline in COVID-19 cases recorded in the state in recent weeks. The counter affidavit also pointed to the recent Assembly elections held successfully in Bihar, as well as elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
While the state government’s petition had called the SEC’s decision to hold the polls in February a unilateral move, the SEC argued that the decision was made in consultation with various stakeholders. However, according to reports, the petition filed by state Pacchayat Raj Secretary Gopal Krishna Dwivedi states that the government was not consulted by the SEC before deciding to hold the local body elections in February.