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Jagan-BJP not ready for Tirupati bypoll before March

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Utter confusion is prevailing on the date of Tirupati bypoll. All this was because of Vijay Say Reddy’s last statement that the local polls would be held only after March by which time Tirupati poll would be completed. But latest reports say that the YCP is not ready for the Tirupati poll also as long as Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar is there as the State Election Commissioner. It is obviously to avoid any sort of influence of Ramesh Kumar on the byelection.

Every citizen of AP knows that CM Jagan is unwilling to allow Ramesh Kumar to carry out any election under his supervision. Only two months are remaining for Ramesh to retire.

However, the deadline for holding Tirupati bypoll is fast approaching. Ex Tirupati MP late Balli Durgaprasada Rao passed away on September 16, 2020. As per the Representation of People Act 1951, the byelection should be held within six months of the occurrence of the vacancy. As such, the Tirupati bypoll should be held before March 16, 2021. By this time, the six months period will expire.

If the election is to be delayed further, the Election Commission of India would have to decide this in consultation with the Government of India. Ultimately, the final decision will depend on the BJP and CM Jagan on holding the Tirupati bypoll because their feedback will be apparently considered at the Central level.

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Is there democracy or emergency in Andhra Pradesh, asks BJP

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Andhra Pradesh BJP President Somu Veerraju on Thursday lambasted the state government and asked if there is democracy or emergency in the state.

“I am asking Jagan Mohan Reddy whether there is democracy or emergency in your government? If you have the right to impose emergency, you can impose it. But we are observing several incidents. When we called for ‘Chalo Antarvedi’, you arrested our leaders all over the state,” said Veerraju.

He alleged that the government is filing several police cases on the basis of social media posts, including allegedly arresting people just for sharing information.

Veerraju claimed that thousands of people are being arrested and BJP leaders are not being allowed to visit Ramateertham, where an idol of Lord Ram was desecrated and decapitated by unknown miscreants.

“The government has to issue a statement as to why these things are happening. The DGP has claimed that BJP’s role is there in temple attacks. First he said there was no role of political parties,” he said.

The BJP President said his party leaders had tried to discuss these baseless allegations with the government.

He also asked if posting on social media about fallen temples is equal to demolishing them. Veerraju said it is a shameful act of the government to arrest senior BJP leaders who wanted to discuss these allegations.

“As there is an undemocratic rule in the state and attacks are happening on Hindu temples, the BJP will not keep quiet. It is a cowardly act to block the BJP in this manner,” he said.

According to Veerraju, no BJP activist is scared of these activities by the government and the party is poised to take out ‘rathyatras’ soon.

He also claimed that an attack on BJP is an attack on Hindus.

Veerraju said a report has been submitted to Union Home Minister Amit Shah about the state of affairs in Andhra Pradesh.

Incidentally, senior leaders such as C.M. Ramesh were arrested by the police on Thursday.

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HC quashes atrocities cases against Amaravati farmers

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The High Court of Andhra Pradesh is giving blow after blow to the Jaganmohan Reddy Government. Today also, the court struck down yet another case filed against the Amaravati farmers. This was pertaining to the SC, ST atrocities that were filed against the SC farmers of Krishnayapalem village in the Capital city area.

The respondents’ lawyer argued before the court that the atrocities cases should be filed only when the SC, STs were attacked by other castes or communities. In this case, the police filed the atrocities cases against the SC farmers. This was quite unheard of in the past that such cases could be filed.

Only yesterday, the HC gave a verdict that no insider trading took place in the Amaravati lands. Even after the change of the Chief Justice of AP, one by one adverse orders were being given against the cases and decisions of the Jagan regime.

Soon, the cases relating to the shifting of Capital infrastructure will also come up before the High Court.

Analysts say that the farmers’ petitions were strong in respect of their agreements reached with the Government for the development of the Capital. Tough days are ahead for the Jagan regime with all these cases coming up before the court in a row.

The AP Government is approaching the Supreme Court on all these cases but the future is uncertain whether the CM could get final approval for Capital shifting.

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Bharati Cements ‘biggest beneficiary’ in AP cement orders?

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Fresh controversy broke out on the Bharati Cements walking away with a huge percentage of the cement orders of the Andhra Pradesh Government. This has happened in the first 10 months of the current financial year. Bharati Cements, in which YS Bharati Reddy is a director, has received 14 percent of all purchase orders for cement made by the Government during this period.

Indian Express, a national daily, has put out a sensational story saying that there was a serious conflict of interest in the cement procurement orders of the AP Government. Bharati Cements, in which Jagan family owns 49 percent stake, got 2,28,370.14 metric tonnes of cement purchase orders from AP Government during April 2020 to January 18, 2021.

Expectedly, Jagan Reddy’s co-accused N. Srinivasan has also got huge orders in this. The India Cements, of which Srinivasan is Managing Director, was the second highest beneficiary in the AP Government’s cement purchase orders. It got orders of 1,59,753.70 metric tonnes. Also, the India Cements has got investments of Rs. 95.32 Cr in Bharati Cements. Incidentally, Srinivasan is named in the CBI’s chargesheet against the AP CM and others.

The India Cements Ltd received the second highest purchase orders of 1,59,753.70 MT, which is about 30 per cent less than Bharathi Cements. The India Cements had investments of Rs 95.32 crore in Bharathi Cement, and had sold it the same year Vicat acquired 51 per cent in Bharathi. The CBI has filed three chargesheets under quid pro quo cases against Dalmia Cements, India Cements, Raghuram Cements (previous name of Bharati Cements) and Penna Cements.

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Chandrababu will not let NTR get Bharat Ratna: Kodali Nani

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Andhra Pradesh Civil Supplies minister and firebrand Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) leader Kodali Sri Venkateshwara Rao on Tuesday said Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo Nara Chandrababu Naidu will not let the late NT Rama Rao receive the prestigious Bharat Ratna award.

“At Mahanadu, they claim that NTR should be given Bharat Ratna but in proper format they never give this demand. Did Naidu take a cabinet decision that NTR should be given Bharat Ratna?” questioned Rao, who is popularly known as Kodali Nani.

He said Naidu doesn’t even ask for that award to NTR in the capacity of TDP supremo and alleged that he suspended NTR from the party and grabbed his chief minister’s seat.

“As long as Naidu is alive, he will not let NTR receive Bharat Ratna because he is the first enemy of NTR,” alleged Rao.

Rao also did not mince words in criticizing Naidu and alleging that he was responsible for the death of NTR.

The YSRCP leader noted that in the event of Bharat Ratna being given to NTR, technically it will be received by his wife Lakshmi Parvathy as she is alive.

“When a husband wins Bharat Ratna, the award will be given to his wife not to daughters, sons or sons-in-law. That means Lakshmi Parvathy will go and receive the Bharat Ratna award, which he (Naidu) doesn’t like. So that’s why he never proposes to anyone to give Bharat Ratna to NTR,” claimed Rao.

Other than merely repeating this wish at the death anniversary, he said Naidu doesn’t do anything beyond on this matter.

Conferring the award on NTR is a longtime demand of his supporters and admirers across the state.

Naidu is the son-in-law of NTR

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Amid debate challenges with Nani, TDP’s Uma arrested, let off

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Dramatic scenes played out in Vijayawada on Tuesday leading to the arrest and release of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader and former minister Devineni Uma after he tried to reach an NTR statue following challenges to debate with Civil Supplies Minister Kodali Sri Venkateshwara Rao.

Both the leaders challenged each other to debate, especially Rao on alleged corruption in the ruling party over distribution of land to poor people.

Rao said that Uma was unnecessarily making allegations that the Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy committed corruption at a time when more than 3,000 people in Mylavaram’s Gollapudi were receiving land after 30 years.

“He (Uma) is simply making baseless allegations convening press conferences. So I told him to come for a debate on the manifesto as to what we fulfilled. I am ready to debate,” said Rao.

He warned Uma that he cannot just keep on making allegations on Reddy.

However, Rao alleged that Uma challenged him to come and touch at TDP founder Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao’s statue where he will do a protest.

The minister observed that police will not allow for such a thing to happen and highlighted that Uma was not answering phone calls.

“Answer my phone call. Let’s decide where we shall have our debate? At your home or my home?” said Rao.

However, nothing of that sort happened and Uma tried going to NTR statue where he was arrested.

Vijayawada police commissioner B.V. Srineevasuslu confirmed that Uma was arrested and released on Tuesday.

Later, Rao alleged that Uma intentionally deflected the debate and resorted to going to the statue so that police would arrest him, leading to alleged publicity gain.

The Gudivada YSRCP MLA claimed that Uma acts as per the directions of TDP supremo Nara Chandrababu Naidu.

Meanwhile, estranged TDP MLA Vallabhaneni Vamsi also came in support of Rao and said that a debate would be good.

Vamsi went to NTR statue in Vijayawada and honoured it with ksheeabishekam (pouring milk on statue with reverence) and said that the late leader and movie legend was a true leader of the masses and the poor.

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CM Jagan in a hurry to speed up Kurnool High Court

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AP Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy had raised 16 items concerning the State during his meeting with Union Home Minister Amita Shah in Delhi. The foremost plea made by Jagan Reddy was about the need for issuing renotification for shifting the High Court of Andhra Pradesh from Amaravati to Kurnool. This has been one of the major hurdles for the Jagan regime’s bold move on its 3 Capitals plan in the name of decentralisation of administration.

The other request of AP CM was for the Centre’s approval for the revised estimates of Polavaram irrigation project which was put at Rs. 55,656 Cr. The deadlock over the works on this prestigious lifeline project has been giving a big embarrassment to the Jagan regime. Also, the Centre should immediately pay the Rs. 1,644 Cr arrears under Polavaram as these funds were pending since 2018.

Mr. Jagan Reddy also pleaded with Mr. Amit Shah for the Centre to pay Rs. 22,948 Cr to fill the revenue deficit gap that was there during 2014-`15. The AP CM also sought Central intervention to make the Telangana Government to pay Rs. 5,541 Cr to the AP Genco under the reorganisation plan.
CM Jagan has also sought Mr. Amit Shah support for the Disha and AP Land Titling Bills.

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Does Jagan hate Krishna basin ?

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Krishna basin has been a rich source of water for agriculture in all the regions of Andhra Pradesh. From Srisailam dam, water is supplied to remote areas in Rayalaseema as well. AP Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy himself has made repeated promises to Rayalaseema to supply more water from Srisailam through a lift project. Such is the significance of the Krishna river and its basin.

But, all of a sudden, the Jagan regime has decided to set up the office of the Krishna Water Management Board at a place far away from the Krishna basin. Ironically, the YCP decided to take this office beyond the Godavarai basin to Visakhapatnam port city. As usual, this decision was also taken unilaterally.

Now, the situation came back to the beginning. The Telangana irrigation department had put up a strong objection to the shifting of the Krishna Board office to Vizag. The neighbouring asked how this office could be located in a place which was in no way connected to the Krishna basin. The Telangana Engineer in Chief wrote a letter to the Board Chairman. He also objected to the manner in which the office shifting decision was taken without discussing the same at the Apex Council.

Once again, questions were asked whether the Krishna Board office was also being shifted to Vizag because of caste reasons. It is well known how Capital is being shifted.

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Jagan’s new offer to temple priests to win Hindu hearts

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The YCP Government has initiated some damage control measures on the issue of temple attacks. The culprits behind the desecrations were not yet caught. There has been rising criticising from all sides. Even the BJP is taking up agitations. As a fitting antidote to all this, the Jagan regime has decided to please the temple priests. It has announced that the salary of the ‘archakas’ of temples will be increased from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000.

The new hike will be applicable for priests working in all the non-revenue earning temples. There are quite a good number of them. The Jagan rule is also assuring the archakas and their associations that in future, the YCP will also confer hereditary rights for them.

Jagan Reddy’s new sops to ‘priests’ came amid rising allegations that the YCP was totally adopting a pro-Christian and pro-pastors approach. This feeling is growing among the majority Hindu populations. Sensing this mood only, Chandrababu Naidu has begun openly accusing the YCP of favouring pastors and using them for conversions.

Analysts say that the YCP has no choice but to woo some sections of the Hindu voters in order to retain its power. It would be impossible to win elections if the majority Hindus are totally estranged. There is also the threat of the polarisation of the Hindu voters only to defeat the Jagan regime.

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Will ‘Christian branding’ help Jagan in coming polls?

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Suddenly, religious feelings and sentiments started dominating AP political scene. Discussions at tea stalls, in homes and offices are not complete without a mention of temple attacks and religious links of different parties. This is particularly so after the Ramatheertham incident.

The YCP social media has started campaigning to project Chandrababu Naidu as an enemy of the pastors and the Christians as a whole. It has circulated videos almost to brand the TDP as a Hindutva party. This has triggered speculation whether CM Jagan Reddy is committing a strategic mistake or taking a calculated risk by attributing religious motives to Chandrababu. Analysts say that the YCP has everything to lose by doing religious polarisation at this juncture rather than the TDP.

Even in 2019, the YCP was branded as a Christian party. The voters had seen how the Jagan Reddy family openly campaigned with the Bible by their side. The pastors had then given all out support. At that time, even most sections of the majority Hindus supported Jagan Reddy. It was because they were divided along caste and regional lines.

Moreover, the Reddy caste wholeheartedly supported Jagan in 2019. Things are taking a different turn now. Even some sections among the Reddys are not so happy with the Jagan style of administration. The same is the case with the majority Hindus who are greatly agitated about the temple attacks. In the coming elections, the YCP would undoubtedly have to retain support from some Hindu sections to continue its hold.

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Bharati Cements biggest beneficiary in steep price hike?

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The YCP Government is facing fresh allegations for imposing a heavy burden on the common man by hiking cement prices upto Rs. 350 to Rs. 400 per bag. This has given yet another blow to the already ailing construction industry in the State. The big question is whether the latest price hike was only aimed at benefitting Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s own Bharati Cements in which their family still got 49 percent stake and his wife Bharati was a director. The company’s latest financial report had also indicated that they got a ‘record profitability’ thanks to the hike in selling prices in Andhra Pradesh.

Meanwhile, the TDP accused the Chief Minister of encouraging the cement companies syndicate to hike prices in the past 19 months. CM Jagan was not in a position to control the cement prices also as he had already collected thousands of crores J-tax from the companies since the beginning by creating artificial sand shortage and collapse of the construction industry in AP.

Why is the CM not daring to form a Cabinet Sub Committee to bring down the cement prices immediately? This was badly necessary considering how the construction workers even resorted to suicides unable to find work opportunities. Steep hikes by Rs. 80 to Rs. 100 per bag of cement were unacceptable.

TDP National Spokesman Pattabhi said that Bharati Cements was born out of the stench of corruption resorted to by Jagan Reddy during his father YSR regime. Later, 51 percent major share in the company was sold to French company Vicat. The AP people should understand the true colours of CM Jagan and reject his corrupt regime. While the common man was forced to buy cement at steep prices in AP, the Jagan-favoured companies of Megha Engineering and those of Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy were getting cement at far lower prices. N. Srinivasan of India Cements was also part of the AP cement syndicate and he also had a share in the Bharati Cements and the Jagati Publications. Srinivasan had faced charges made by the Enforcement Directorate and he was fined for Rs. 187 Cr by the Competition Commission of India following complaints made by the builders.

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Active Covid cases drop below 2k in Andhra

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Active coronavirus cases in Andhra Pradesh have dropped below 2,000 to 1,987 on Saturday, powered by 326 more recoveries.

On adding the new recoveries, total recoveries crossed 8.76 lakh. In the past 24 hours, 114 new Covid infections have been reported in the state, increasing the state’s total tally to 8.85 lakh.

Chittoor district accounted for the highest number of infections at 24, followed by Visakhapatnam (22) East Godavari (13), Krishna (12), Nellore (10) and Kurnool (8).

Among other places, Guntur and Srikakulam had 6 cases each, West Godavari (4), Anantapur and Vizianagaram (3 each) and Prakasam (1).

East Godavari district’s tally crossed 1.24 lakh, the highest among all Andhra districts, while the state’s positivity rate fell to 7.06 per cent that is still higher than the national average of 5.68 per cent.

With 25,542 more tests, the total Covid-19 tests conducted in Andhra Pradesh so far have crossed 1.25 crore.

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Why is AP DGP mum on arrested ‘notorious pastor’?

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Pastor Praveen Chakravarthy’s confessions on video have raised political temperatures in Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, he has been arrested after allegations came up that he had confessed to demolishing idols and desecrating temples in different parts of the State. He had got many men to organise these activities. He had also confessed to having converted 699 villages wholesale into following Christianity in AP.

Now, the TDP has seized this opportunity and posed questions to the DGP why he has not talked about this ‘notorious pastor’s case’ at all in his list of arrested persons who were accused of harming religious harmony. TDP Politburo Member Varla Ramaiah demanded the DGP to explain to the people why he deliberately omitted the name of pastor Praveen in the list of 15 persons who were arrested in the cases booked in the wake of temple descrations.

The TDP leader wondered how the DGP remained silent on pastor Praveen though he was arrested for making ‘extremely provocative statements that would harm religious harmony.’ Video evidence was available how the pastor had claimed to have himself desecrated and demolished the temple idols and how he had men doing it all over the State. Praveen also claimed to have converted over 699 villages wholesale to his religion. All this evidence was available but the DGP chose to ignore this while overstating petty social media cases only to defame the TDP.

Mr. Ramaiah further said that the pastor was once an active member of Bro Anil Kumar’s team. There were also allegations of his involvement with one political party during the elections. Praveen was seen in photos taken with a YCP woman MP and he hails from Kakinada basically. The DGP should have dug up all these details if he was really worried about the religious harmony in Andhra Pradesh.

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Jagan 3rd ‘best CM’ while KCR not in top 10: C Voter-ABP

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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy has stood in 3rd place among the best performing CMs in the country. He is next only to Odisha CM Navin Patnaik who got first place and Aravind Kejriwal, who got second place. The ABP News and C-Voter carried out the survey and announced the results.

The survey was done under the name ‘Desh ka Mood’ (Mood of the Nation) by the ABP News and C-Voter. Three Chief Ministers of the Bharatiya Janata Party came up in the top 10 places but there was no name of Telangana CM K Chandrasekhara Rao.

Surprisingly, KCR figured in the fourth position from bottom. Even Tamil Nadu CM Palani Swamy was one step ahead of KCR as he stood in the fifth position from bottom.

The survey asked the respondents about how they feel about the performance of the respective CMs and also about how PM Modi has led the nation during the Coronavirus epidemic. About 66 percent of the respondents were stated to have expressed happiness about the PM’s leadership. This comes at a time when most leaders of the world countries were also facing adverse public opinion in the wake of the virus threat.

More surprisingly, 91 percent respondents in Orissa were stated to have expressed happiness about the Central Government’s welfare programmes. This was despite the fact that Navin Patnaik emerged as the best CM once against at the national level survey.

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Has BJP missed a golden chance to capture AP?

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The BJP national leadership suddenly woke up to the ongoing controversy surrounding attacks on temples in Andhra Pradesh. But the Modi-Shah duo have certainly realised the mistake quite late. In the absence of any big recovery, the party is now trying to do some damage control.

The BJP central leadership is deeply regretting its failure to quickly grab the Ramatheertham opportunity to make it a State and National level issue. Eventually, the party top leaders have allegedly given a thorough warning to their AP incharges and State unit leaders never to make such mistakes again. Moreover, the central leadership has pressurised the AP leaders not to spare the Jagan Reddy Government on Ramatheertham and other attacks on temples.

It is only after this warning that BJP AP President Veerraju and other leaders started putting up a big show of protests against the Jagan rule. Whatever, other top BJP leaders in the state were not showing so much support to Veerraju team. Now, the BJP has even come out with ‘Rama Rath Yatra’ to make up for the lost opportunity.
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What has upset the BJP central leaders is the fact that their arch enemy Chandrababu Naidu has walked with the whole credit in highlighting the Ramatheertham incident at the state and national levels. Analysts say that only an Advani type committed leader is required to make Rath Yatra a success in AP. But right now, the present team in the BJP AP unit has no such highly devoted leader.

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Will Jagan use higher court litigation to avoid local polls?

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Undoubtedly, State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar stood like a rock and he was fighting his war like a one-man army. All his strength has obviously come from the fact that he is the head of an autonomous, constitutional institution. However, the main challenge is coming from the manner in which the YCP regime has taken a serious view.

Right from the beginning, Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy and his Ministers had given enough indications that the local polls will not be held as long as Nimmagadda is the SEC. Now, Nimmagadda brought it to such a point that the Government would have no choice but to bow down. Even then, the Jagan regime approached the High Court which will take up hearing on the Government’s petition against the SEC order today.

Analysts say that the YCP Government has been using the litigation in higher courts as an excuse to go ahead with its policies despite adverse judgements in the lower courts. It happened with the YCP colours on the Government buildings and also with the English medium in the schools.

What more, it has become a prestige issue for the CM. Whereas, the SEC is just using his constitutional authority to prove his point and assert his position. Even if the AP High Court favours the SEC today, the Government may not outright cooperate with the local polls. Like all other issues, this will also go to the higher court by which time Nimmagadda will retire.

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Jagan to shoot three birds at one shot: SEC, ED, TDP

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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy has no fear of the law. His Government has decided to continue its confrontation with the State Election Commission (SEC). The CM is going to defy the SEC order not to distribute benefits under any Government programme in view of the election code being in force now. Tomorrow, Mr. Jagan Reddy is going to distribute ‘Amma Vadi’ financial benefits to mothers towards the education of their children. He will press the button at a function to be held in Nellore district headquarters town.

Normally, the Chief Minister would press the button on the computer from his Tadepalli residence. At the click of a button, he would facilitate deposit of thousands of crores directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. But this time, the CM chose to do this in Nellore. His Ministers had descended on Nellore to make arrangements for the same. Actually, the CM was summoned to attend before the ED Special Court tomorrow. So, his lawyers would tell the court that the CM was busy with the public meeting.

At the same time, Mr. Jagan would so publicly defy the SEC’s order for not distributing benefits. That too, the CM was going to distribute benefits to over 40 lakh mothers and 85 lakh children. The Ministers were saying that there was no question of stopping the public benefit programme just because of the SEC or Mr. Chandrababu Naidu. The TDP chief was acting like a ‘Saindhavudu’ to create hurdles for the people’s programmes. Naidu even stopped the house sites registration programme.

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TDP seeks Andhra Guv’s intervention in local body polls

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Amid another stand-off between the Andhra Pradesh government and the State Election Commission (SEC) on the holding of panchayat elections, opposition TDP on Sunday urged Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan to intervene in the matter.

Former Minister and senior Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader Y Ramakrishnudu said that the SEC has the right to conduct the elections as per Article 243A and 243K(1). He said that it was for the Governor to make the required staff available for holding elections in the state.

The TDP leader alleged that the situation in the state was such that it could attract Article 356 of the Constitution pertaining to the breakdown of the state machinery and imposition of President’s rule.

He accused the YSR Congress Party government in the state of working to “destroy the institutions of legislature, judiciary, executive, media and police”.

“Since there is a breakdown of the Constitution, the situation attracts Article 365. When the situation in a state is not conducive to governance, the Governor should intervene,” he said.

The TDP leader termed as “ridiculous” the statement by Ministers that the state government can’t cooperate in the conduct of the elections. “Such a situation never arose in the country’s history,” he said.

Ramakrishnudu said that in no other state had employees’ organisations refused to cooperate in the conduct of the elections. “When there was no objection to queues at liquor shops, why should there be any objection to voters’ queues?” he asked.

He pointed out that Bihar Assembly elections and bypolls in various states were held amid Covid-19 pandemic wheras elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly are also going to be conducted despite the pandemic. “Will the Andhra government then not conduct local body elections till June 2022 because of Covid-19?” Ramakrishnudu asked.

The TDP leader alleged that Jagan Mohan Reddy government was “afraid of facing the elections”. He said that the ruling party was scared of public resentment and hence creating hurdles in the conduct of local polls.

The state on Saturday challenged in the High Court the SEC’s decision to hold the panchayat elections. This came a day after the SEC overruled state’s objections and announced the schedule of gram panchayat elections in four phases from February 5.

State Election Commissioner M Ramesh Kumar and the state government are locked in a bitter row since March last year.

Taking strong exception to Ramesh Kumar’s move to postpone local body elections in March due to coronavirus pandemic, the government had removed him from the post. However, the High Court later reinstated him.

The YSRCP government has termed the schedule of gram panchayat polls as unilateral and a violation of the Supreme Court orders.

The officials made it clear that they were not ready to conduct the elections as the government machinery would be engaged in the vaccination drive for at least eight months.

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319 new corona cases, 308 more recoveries in Andhra

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Andhra Pradesh registered 319 new coronavirus cases on Friday, taking the state’s tally to 8.84 lakh, even as 308 more patients recovered from the infection.

Krishna district accounted for highest 46 infections in the past 24 hours, followed by Chittoor (44), Guntur (39), West Godavari (27), and East Godavari and Kurnool (26 each), Visakhapatnam (25), Nellore (23), Anantapur (22), Srikakulam (12), Prakasam (10), and Vizianagaram (5).

East Godavari district has so far recorded the highest infections of more than 1.23 lakh.

Andhra Pradesh’s positivity rate fell to 7.24 per cent, which is still higher than the national average of 5.84 per cent.

Meanwhile, one more fatality in the past 24 hours took the state’s COVID-19 death toll to 7,127.

The recoveries now total 8.74 lakh in the state, narrowing the gap between total cases and recoveries.

With 59,671 more tests, the total corona tests conducted in Andhra Pradesh so far have crossed 1.22 crore.

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Andhra sets up state, district level communal harmony committees

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Amid a flood of unverified, alleged temple attack reports, the Andhra Pradesh government has formed state and district level communal harmony committees to initiate confidence building measures and promote religious harmony in the state.

“The main objective of both the state level and district level communal harmony committees is to take up several confidence building measures and send across strong communication that all the communities in the state are together,” Chief Secretary Aditya Nath Das said on Thursday.

He specially addressed the media and highlighted that communal harmony is central for the development of the state and the districts, and vowed that the government is committed to take stern action against the perpetrators of crimes against religious harmony.

The state level communal harmony committee will comprise the chief secretary as the chairman, director general of police (vice chairman), and a representative each from the faiths of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and others as members.

Other members in this committee will include principal secretaries from the departments of home, endowments, minority welfare, and other stakeholders.

“The committee will meet from time to time to discuss issues related to communal harmony, spreading the message that all communities in the state are together, striving for the development of the state,” said Das.

It will also prepare detailed state level standard operating procedures for tacking situations which cause communal disharmony.

The committee will prepare guidelines related to the security plan for religious buildings, structures and monuments in the state, formulate a plan for increasing communal harmony in the state and take stock of the actions taken on issues discussed by the district communal harmony committee.

“The committee will review all the cases booked under different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the culprits for disturbing communal harmony at the district level,” he said.

The committee will also take up programmes in schools and colleges to inculcate the spirit of togetherness and communal harmony among the students.

Das pointed out that some vested interests want to destabilise communal harmony in the state, which is renowned for inter-faith harmony.

“The state of Andhra Pradesh has always been famous for its communal peace and harmony. One would look back at the state’s tranquility with humility and pride. People of all castes and religions have been in peaceful coexistence here since ages and have adopted a progressive attitude,” Das said.

However, he pointed out that the recent surge in alleged temple attacks has raised many questions, bringing to light the attempts made by some vested interests to destabilise communal harmony in the state.

“The motive of these vested interest groups is to directly or indirectly cause the attacks on temples, subsequently make baseless insinuations and instigate communal violence with the hope that the government’s credibility would be damaged,” said the chief secretary, adding that it is imperative to take stern action to prevent such occurrences in the future.

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