M A I N   N E W S

CEC wants him out, Chawla digs in
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 31
Battle in the Election Commission has taken a dramatic turn. While the Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami has suo moto recommended to the government that Navin Chawla, one of two election commissioners be removed for partisanship, Chawla today made it clear there was no question of resigning. He said he was looking forward to conducting the general elections.

Though it has been confirmed that Gopalaswami had sent a letter to President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil about a week ago, Chawla has refused to comment on the CECís recommendation, saying he was not aware of any letter written to the President. The President has forwarded the CECís missive to the Prime Minister.

The CEC is to demit office on April 20 and Chawla is his successor. The letter is based on a petition by the BJP that had complained against the partisan functioning of Chawla. It may be mentioned that Gopalaswami was home secretary in the NDA government and LK Advani was the Home Minister.

The BJP had alleged that Chawla was close to the Congress and with just three months to go for the general elections, Chawla and other Election Commissioner, SY Quraishi, could very well decide to conduct the polls after the CEC demits office on April 20. The time limit of for forming the government was till June 1 and this gives a 40-day period.

In the past, differences had showed up. Chawla had raised serious objections to the holding of the Karnataka Assembly elections in May but was over-ruled. The Election Commission works on the principle of consensus and in case of differences, it goes by majority opinion.

The matter against Chawla was first raised in 2006 when leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha LK Advani and 204 MPs submitted a petition to the-then President APJ Abdul Kalam seeking the removal of Chawla as Election Commissioner on the ground of alleged partisanship.

The BJP also took the matter to the Supreme Court. Gopalaswami, in his affidavit to the apex court, had claimed that the CEC had suo motu power to recommend the removal of an Election Commissioner. Following which the BJP withdrew its petition and again took up the issue with the CEC.

In January 2008, the BJP took the matter up with the CEC. Subsequently, Gopalaswami served a notice on Chawla and it took him a year to come up with his adverse recommendation. He is known to have rejected the BJPís allegations going back to the period of Emergency and so forth.



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