Elections to rural and urban local bodies in Andhra Pradesh were on Sunday put off indefinitely by the State Election Commission because of the spread of coronavirus.
Elections to gram panchayats have been kept in abeyance for six weeks, State Election Commissioner N Ramesh Kumar said.
"Taking due consideration of emerging challenges posted by coronavirus spread, the SEC is of the firm view that continuing with the election schedule may be detrimental and harmful to the public health at large," he told a press conference here.
Elections to Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies and Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituencies are originally scheduled for March 21.
The commission decided to exercise its plenary powers under Articles 243K and 243ZA of the Constitution to put on hold the election process for six weeks or till the threat of Covid-19 is arrested or declined and normalcy restored, Ramesh Kumar told a press conference.
Elections to Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies (MPTC) and Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituencies (ZPTC) are originally scheduled for March 21.
Nomination process for this has already been completed.
Elections to municipalities, Nagar panchayats and municipal corporations were slated for March 23.
Notification for the two-phase elections to gram panchayats was supposed to be issued on Sunday but it has now been kept in abeyance.
All political parties, except the ruling YSR Congress, had on March 6 sought postponement of the local bodies elections given the spread of coronavirus.
We then said we will assess the situation at regular intervals during the election process and intervene if the situation so warrants.
The SEC took inputs from senior health functionaries, who have indicated that health safeguards may be put in place immediately to avoid large public gatherings to contain the spread of the virus, the State Election Commissioner said.
The SEC also took into consideration the movement of a large number of voters from Hyderabad and Telangana to AP to cast their votes in local bodies.
There may be large-scale movement of voters from Karnataka, Odisha and Tamil Nadu to participate in the elections.
A rural voter has to cast four votes one each for MPTC, ZPTC, gram panchayat ward and Sarpanch. Continuing with the election schedule may be harmful to the public health due to the spread of Covid-19 in Telangana and Karnataka where a health alert was given, the Commissioner said.
Accordingly, the elections have been deferred.
The state government wanted the local bodies elections completed before March 31 to draw statutory grants from the Government of India.
With the elections put off, the grants are unlikely to come soon.