NEW DELHI: Apart from citing 12 instances of partisan behaviour by election commissioner Navin Chawla, CEC N Gopalaswami has written anotherletter to the President on what should be done to make EC less politicised.
The 12 instances of Chawla’s “partisan” behaviour cited by the CEC as ground for his removal include the EC’s role while deciding poll dates for Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in 2007 as well as his ‘suo motu’ decision to consult ministry of external affairs while deciding if a notice be issued to Congress
president Sonia Gandhi on a complaint seeking her disqualification for accepting a Belgian honour.
The CEC has also questioned Chawla’s role in BJP’s CD case and Bhagalpur by-election. It is believed that when dates for Gujarat election were being considered by the Election Commission, Gopalaswami, as recommended by the state chief electoral officer, was in favour of three phase poll, something that Chawla was opposed to. Home ministry had also made arrangements of central paramilitary forces for three phases.
In fact, EC was informed in writing by the home ministry that 450 companies of paramilitary forces could be deployed in the state. The three-phase poll was still an internal decision of the EC, not known to the outside world.
Within a few days, sources said, a senior Congress functionary called up the commission and asked why it could not be a two-phase poll. CEC is believed to have expressed helplessness on account of unavailability of forces. The Congress functionary promised that home ministry would do the needful. Within hours, Chawla is believed to have told CEC that more forces would be given for Gujarat, an astonishing fact since the Congress functionary was not supposed to have even called him. In the next few hours, home ministry officials called EC promising more forces. Gujarat finally had two-phase election.
Himachal also went to polls along with Gujarat. Chawla was opposed to EC’s decision of holding election in all constituencies of the state including snowbound Kinnaur, Bharmour and Lahul & Spiti four months before expiry of the assembly’s term. Even political parties of HP had demanded simultaneous election. It is said that Chawla delayed his opinion on one ground or the other.
Similarly, when schedule for UP election was decided by the EC, Chawla delayed its announcement on the ground that he had to go out of station for a day. Meanwhile, Congress, it is believed, somehow got to know the dates.
On the Sonia issue, EC deliberated for more than five months before taking a decision during which the PM’s principal secretary, T K A Nair, also paid a visit to the commission pleading that there was no case against Sonia and that the PM had already examined the matter. The commission finally decided to issue notice to Sonia. In fact, after Sonia’s response to the EC’s notice, the commission is yet to firm up its view since Chawla has not yet finalised his comments.
But notice to Sonia was not without backroom drama and last minute change of mind. Sources said while Gopalaswami and Chawla were in favour of issuing notice, EC S Y Quraishi felt there was no case against the Congress chief and, therefore, the matter should not be pursued.