Visakhapatnam: TDP supporters during a Telugu Desam Party's rally in Visakhapatnam on March 31, 2019. . Image Source: IANS News

Amaravati, Jan 25 : Amid the all-out war between the Andhra Pradesh government and the State Election Commissioner (SEC) Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, government employees are proving to be yet another hostile party to the idea of conducting panchayat elections, as they allege that Kumar did not bother about rural local body polls when the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) was in power.

"As long as TDP government was in power, you did not think of elections, you did not bother about elections. When all the employees are in coronavirus fear psychosis, you are pressuring for conducting elections," said employees' union leader Venkatrami Reddy in a video message.

Reddy was the same employee Kumar accused of threatening him with physical harm.

The government employees' representative reminded Kumar that he did not conduct the elections when the local bodies' tenure expired in 2018 itself.

"You are such a committed person to conduct local bodies' elections, why you didn't conduct elections in the month of August 2018, soon after the expiry of the five year term of the local bodies?" he said.

According to Reddy, Kumar did not conduct the elections even after the High Court directed that elections should be conducted within three months in October 2018.

"This is not correct sir. You are not doing the welfare of employees. You are not acting to protect the interest of employees," Reddy pointed out.

Though the SEC is talking about elections in other states, the government employees told him that there was no vaccination drive back then.

"But today, coronavirus vaccination is there. Government of India released a schedule for Coronavirus vaccination. We employees are in the middle of vaccine schedule. Some employees have already taken vaccination. Some employees have to take vaccination in the coming 20-30 days," he said.

At this juncture, Reddy said forcing employees to participate in election duty is nothing but harassment.

"You are not considering our request. You are not hearing our plea. You are acting on your own. You are not thinking about employees' health conditions," he pointed out.

He requested the SEC to hold elections for another two months until the vaccination for employees is over and reminded Kumar that he announced providing all safety measures to employees which they are requesting now.

"We are asking for that protection. As you know, vaccine for Coronavirus is out, assured protection from coronavirus is only vaccination, not just wearing a mask or using sanitiser. The Government of India started vaccination, giving first priority to employees in this vaccination process," he said.

Reddy questioned Kumar if his life is more valuable than the employees' lives, referring to the protective measures he took while addressing a press conference on Saturday, which he left without answering any questions.

He said that the SEC fixed a glass shield on his table even though there was 10 ft distance between him and the journalists.

"When you are taking so many precautions to interact with 10 - 15 people, how can you ask employees to attend election duties and interact with thousands of people without safety measures?" he posed and added that it is unfair and unjust.

These elections were originally supposed to have been held in 2018 when the tenure of the local bodies expired back then but Kumar chose not to hold them.

However, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy thought of going to the polls in March 2020 but Kumar did not give the green signal, citing the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a major standoff between the two.

Reddy accused Kumar of acting at the behest of opposition leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu, during whose tenure he was appointed and even tried to replace him, which backfired as the SEC has Constitutional protection equal to a Supreme Court judge.

With just two more months left as the SEC, Kumar is keen on conducting the polls which the state government is opposing, citing the coronavirus pandemic and the mass vaccination drive.

The Supreme Court may take a call on AP government's petition to postpone elections on Monday.

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