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Explained: Why are Andhra Pradesh gram panchayat elections significant?

The ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) backed candidates swept the panchayat polls while the main Opposition was left a distant second.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala , Edited by Explained Desk | Hyderabad |
Updated: February 24, 2021 1:02:17 pm
Visuals from the polling centre in Sampathipuram area of Visakhapatnam (ANI)

Elections to local bodies in rural areas in Andhra Pradesh, known as gram panchayats, were held in four phases on February 9, 13, 17 and 21. The polling percentage for all four phases combined was about 81 per cent. The elections are not held on a party basis but candidates are backed by political parties.

What were the results?

The ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) backed candidates swept the panchayat polls while the main Opposition was left a distant second. Elections were held in 13,097 gram panchayats out of which YSRCP won 10,382 while the TDP won 2,063 and others won 475. There were indications that YSRCP would sweep the polls as after counting of the first phase polls, YSRCP backed candidates bagged 2657 of the 3,249 panchayat seats for which polls were held. TDP finished a distant second with 501 seats.The BJP in alliance with Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party won 46 seats and others, including independents, bagged 45 seats. The YSRCP kept up its performance by winning 2635 seats in the second phase while the TDP backed candidates won 558 seats. In the third phase, YSRCP backed candidates won 2191 seats while TDP won 263.

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Why are the polls so significant?

The panchayat polls were supposed to be last April. However, on March 23, State Election Commissioner Dr N Ramesh Kumar postponed the elections citing covid safety protocols much to the chagrin of Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. The polls remained postponed as the lockdown was announced by the Centre. After the lockdown was lifted, the state government issued an ordinance and changed the duration for the office of the SEC from five years to three years, and also changed the eligibility criteria to retired high court judge, both of which disqualified Ramesh Kumar and the state government removed him from his post. Justice (retired) J Kanakaraj was appointed as the new SEC. However, Kumar challenged the government’s ruling in the AP High Court which struck down the government’s order as illegal and reinstated him as the SEC on July 31 last year. The state government continued to oppose Kumar, who proposed to hold the gram panchayat elections, contending that the Covid-19 situation was not conducive to hold elections. However, Kumar issued the poll notification to hold the polls in four phases. He complained that district officials did not cooperate with him by abstaining from video conferences and meetings.

Were the polls peaceful?

The polls were marred by frequent clashes between supporters of YSRCP and TDP. The TDP alleged that YSRCP leaders and candidates threatened voters that benefits of welfare schemes would be discontinued if they did not vote for YSRCP candidates. The TDP also lodged a complaint that many panchayats were forced to elect candidates unanimously under pressure from YSRCP.

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