The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday (2 March) struck down a state government order providing for nearly 60 per cent reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in local body elections.
As directed by the court, the elections will be held by end of this month, and the reservations will be confined to 50 per cent.
With the state Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy asking his officials to hold the polls, an announcement is likely anytime now.
The local body elections will be a litmus test for Reddy after he rode to power in the assembly polls in May last year. This will be a stern test because the Chief Minister is facing opposition to his plans of having three capitals for the state.
Soon after assuming power, Reddy shelved his predecessor N Chandrababu Naidu’s plan to make Amaravati the capital and instead chose to have three capitals for the state, including Amaravati. Kurnool and Visakhapatnam are the other two.
The proposal is being opposed by farmers, who had earlier parted with their lands for Amaravati. Opposition parties such as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been supporting the farmers, who gave up their land.
Leader of the opposition and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu has been arrested at least a couple of times for opposing the three capitals proposal.
There are at least a couple of indications from Reddy that the going could be tough for him and his YSR Congress Party despite the fact that he hasn't made any wrong move until now.
While instructing his officials to conduct the polls this month, Reddy asked them to adhere to the poll norms. In particular, he asked them to ensure that liquor and money do not flow during the local body polls.
The Chief Minister has warned the opposition that they could face two to three years of jail for violating the poll code while warning real estate businessmen, who reportedly have begun spending huge sums for the local bodies such as panchayats.
The other development that shows Reddy’s nervousness is his warning to his ministers that they would have to resign if their party does not bag the majority of seats in their respective districts.
He has also made it clear that party members of the legislative assembly would not be given tickets next time if YSR Congress does not perform well in their constituencies.
Indications are that Reddy is, in particular, warning his ministers and legislators from Krishna and Guntur districts, the epicentre of the protest against the proposal for the three capitals.
There are also reports that surveys indicate his party could make further inroads into the local body elections.
Usually, the ruling parties tend to do well in local body polls.
Therefore, Reddy’s YSR Congress should have smooth sailing. But the question is: why then is the Chief Minister warning the opposition as well as his own party?
The answer should be available once the local body poll results are out.
M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani
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