After SC’s verdict on PR polls, focus now shifts to Ramesh

Amaravati: The Monday’s landmark judgement upholding the Andhra Pradeh State Election Commission’s decision to conduct the local bodies’ elections brings under the spotlight a man at the helm of the poll body– Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, an unassuming and low-profile IAS officer of 1984.

The long drawn-out and most spirited legal battle he waged against the Jagan Mohan Reddy’s government has fetched him an image as an “Andhra Seshan”. Ramesh, who took over as the APSEC on April 1, 2016 and is due to demit office on March 31, this year continues to be a newsmaker ever since he deferred the process of elections for urban and rural bodies on March 15, 2020 much against the wish of YSR Congress government. He did this all as Tirunellai Narayana Iyer Seshan or TN Seshan rubbed the political chieftains the wrong way, adding a defiant glamour to the profile of his powerful civil services. The wrath the SEC chief has earned from the political executives is so much that he was unceremoniously sacked from office. Ramesh initiated action against at least two district collectors and two SPs in the wake of complaints of terror and intimidation unleashed against the candidates of opposition parties by activists of Jagan’s party that disallowed them to file nominations in the initial phase of elections, deferred in March, last year. It is alleged that the lack of conducive environment at the polling booths leading the election to be one sided in favour of the ruling party in 25 percent of the segments. The unanimous elections became a bone of contention as the opposition parties demanded that they be declared null and vide and conduct fresh polling in those places also. The opposition parties are waiting for the response of SEC in the wake of the SC judgment appropriating his decision to conduct the elections.  

That his instructions for action against the “guilty” officers were thrown to winds by the government is a different story.

Hard nut to crack

The kind of ignominy Ramesh suffered at the hands of the political brass noticeably draws parallels with the bitter experience Seshan had experienced during the PV Narasimha Rao-led government at the centre which converted the Central Election Commission (CEC) into a three-member body as a result of his tiff with it.

Ramesh refused to budge and give in until he has crossed the last mile in pursuit of justice. He waged a sustained legal battle against his removal which finally culminated in a direction from the apex court for his reinstatement. Kumar leveraged the article 324 of the Constitution that gives the poll body wide powers for the conduct, superintendence and direction of polls as Seshan too bravely did.      

Target of troll armies

Seshan was adamant about invoking Rule 37 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, to postpone any election– or not hold it at all– after January 1, 1995, if the government continued to delay the issuing of photo identity cards. It triggered an impasse-like situation. The then communist chief minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, dubbed Seshan a “mad dog”. Like Seshan, Ramesh Kumar was branded as a “puppet” in the hands of opposition parties with a “casteist mindset”. Ramesh Kumar has been trolled with the choicest epithets in the social media just for sticking to his guns steadfastly.

Kumar carried such labels as he was made the SEC during the TDP government, though he retired as Special Chief Secretary to then Governor of undivided Andhra Pradesh ESL Narasimhan. However, the fact remains that Ramesh spent most of his career during the Naidu government before 2004 in non-focal departments such as the Textiles. It is only after Y.S. Rajesekhar Reddy, father of Jagan Reddy, came to power, Ramesh handled the finance department.