Election Commissioner O P Rawat has recused himself from hearing all cases and complaints related to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned his impartiality in a media interview. The unprecedented decision, Rawat told The Indian Express, was imperative to protect the credibility of the Election Commission.
In a letter addressed to Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi Wednesday, he wrote, “I hereby recuse myself from all cases pertaining to AAP so that Shri Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party not only get justice but they also perceive that Election Commission has been fair beyond any shred of doubt. This step is also required to uphold the public perception of impartiality and objectivity of the Election Commission of India.”
Kejriwal, in an interview, had alleged that two out of the three election commissioners were close to the ruling dispensation. He was answering a question related to the office-of-profit case being heard by the EC against 21 AAP MLAs. “One of the election commissioners, A K Joti, was chief secretary of Gujarat under (Narendra) Modiji. The second election commissioner has come from Madhya Pradesh and has been very close to Shivraj Singh Chouhan. So, independence of both these election commissioners is under question,” he was quoted as saying.
When The Indian Express reached out to A K Joti for comment, he said, “I have no comments to make as I am discharging my duties in a free and impartial manner under law. The Commission is meeting office bearers and members of all political parties including AAP. The suggestions and complaints given by the political parties are always examined with necessary due diligence under law and appropriate action is taken.”
“He (Kejriwal) has said that the only independent person is Dr. (Nasim) Zaidi. So, to instill faith and confidence in this institution, its impartiality and its objectivity, it is important that Mr. Kejriwal gets justice from wherever he has faith. Nobody else who is under question should take part in the proceedings. Individuals do not matter. This institution’s credibility has to be maintained and it has to be impeccable,” Rawat said.
He added: “I don’t think people have their facts right. I was never made chief secretary (of MP) by Mr. Shivraj Singh. In fact, I was overlooked (for the job) and I had to come here as secretary to the Government of India and I retired from that post. At the time of my retirement, Shivraj ji was the Chief Minister in MP and the BJP was in power at the Centre. For one-and-half years (after retirement) I was doing what I liked. No one bothered me and there were no post-retirement job offers.”