The Jagan Mohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh scored a win today as the High Court suspended the state election commission's order to hold local body polls next month "in the interest of public health".
The state government had challenged the election body's decision saying it was ill-timed in the middle of the coronavirus crisis and the vaccination drive to be launched next weekend.
The State Election Commission "has not taken an objective decision", the High Court said, adding that the polls would hamper the vaccination programme.
Andhra minister Botsa Satyanarayana has accused State Election Commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar of "double standards" and of working for vested interests. Though he appeared to imply former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu's role, he did not specify.
Mr Satyanarayana, the Minister for Municipal Administration, said the state government had asked for the elections to be held as scheduled in March last year as it would help access central funds. But he said the polls were postponed by Mr Ramesh over the pandemic.
"When the cases were not even close to 30, SEC (Mr Ramesh) had postponed the polls without even consulting the government, but now when the cases are still being reported and there is a warning of a second wave, the State Election Commissioner is trying to conduct elections," he said.
The Minister also questioned why Mr Ramesh did not hold the polls in 2018 when Mr Naidu's Telugu Desam Party was in power.
The Centre, he said, had announced vaccinations from January 16. "Nimmagadda Ramesh is trying to hold it by conducting polls by risking the lives of common people, without having a mere concern about the priority of the public," Mr Satyanarayana fumed.
He rubbished the TDP's taunt that the ruling YSR Congress is "afraid" to face elections. "We are always ready to face elections, but due to the prevailing Covid situation, the government is against holding the local elections. Besides, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has taken welfare to the next level by implementing 90 per cent of the poll promises and there is no need to fear elections," he said.
Despite its official claims of winning 95 per cent of the seats if elections are held now, Jagan Reddy and his party "do not believe the atmosphere is conducive" to a win, sources say.
The state election commissioner had sent an open letter to poll officials yesterday saying all civic protocol would be followed and no one would be put to any risk.