Hyderabad: Will the political war raging in Andhra Pradesh following the postponement of the local body elections for six weeks lead to the impeachment of state election commissioner N. Ramesh Kumar? The unprecedented campaign unleashed against Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar by the ruling YSRCP has triggered a curious debate among the political circles that the unpleasant situation may lead to the impeachment of the commissioner.
The state appears to be in no mood to allow Mr Ramesh Kumar to continue as chief of the state election commission (SEC). All those who had closely worked with Chandrababu Naidu when he was the Chief Minister have been transferred after Jagan assumed office as the Chief Minister in May 2019. Some lower-rung officials have still been languishing without posting for the past eight months. Mr Ramesh Kumar is the only exception as his status is constitutionally safeguarded. The chief of the state election commission cannot be transferred by the state government as the office is a constitutional authority. Its appointment is governed by Articles 243 K and 243 ZA of the Constitution of India.
According to the whispers in the political corridors, the YSRCP is exploring the possibility of removing the election commissioner, who, it is alleged, had acted in cahoots with TDP president Chandrababu Naidu to postpone local body election and write a letter to the Centre maligning the image of the Jaganmohan Reddy government.
The campaign against Mr Ramesh Kumar has been launched by none other than Chief Minister Y.S Jaganmohan Reddy himself. Addressing the media last Sunday the CM alleged that Mr Ramesh Kumar took the decision only at the behest of Chandrababu Naidu, who had appointed him as the chief of the SEC. He also alleged that they both belonged to the same social section and had formed an alliance.
What infuriated the Chief Minister most was a letter purportedly written by the election commissioner to the Union Home secretary seeking security for himself and his family members. The letter narrated in no uncertain terms how the state government was abusing its authority to hijack the elections in its favour. Peeved by Mr Ramesh Kumar’s attitude to make it a national issue, the Jagan government is reportedly weighing the options to move an impeachment motion against him. Since the ruling party has got an absolute majority in the House, the adoption of the impeachment motion in the Assembly will be a cakewalk for the government.
Mr Ramesh Kumar was appointed the chief of the state election commission by the Telugu Desam Party government four years ago. He has one more year to retire.
Article 243 K (2) deals with the removal process of the chief of the state election commission. The section says, “Subject to the provisions of any state law made by the Legislature of a State the conditions of service and tenure of office of the State Election Commission shall be such as the Governor may by rule determine: Provided that the State Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on the like ground as a Judge of High Court and the conditions of service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment."
According to Md Shafiquzzaman, former IAS officer from erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and now a practicing advocate in the Telangana High Court, the state can move the impeachment motion against the chief of SEC as the state is the appointing authority. “But there is a problem. The chief of SEC cannot be impeached based on the political charges that he was in league with Chandrababu Naidu or he was favouring a particular caste. There should be a strong case of misappropriation of funds of the commission or serious corruption charges against him. All the judges against whom impeachment proceedings were initiated earlier had faced charges of corruption and extravagant spending,” Mr Shafiquzzaman told this correspondent.
Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, advisor to the government on public affairs, unambiguously said the state government was working out a strategy to remove Mr Ramesh Kumar through legal means two days ago.