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Parties tread cautiously on CEC’s recommendation

Except the BJP,which accused Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla of bias in favour of the ruling party and supported Chief Election Commissioner....

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: February 1, 2009 11:44 pm

Except the BJP,which accused Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla of bias in favour of the ruling party and supported Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami’s recommendation to the President for his removal,the political class in the country,by and large,chose to stay clear of the raging feud between constitutional authorities ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The Left,which had fallen out with the UPA over the Indo-US nuclear deal,sought to impute “political motive” behind the recommendation given its timing,but refrained from making any direct allegations. While the Congress batted for Chawla,it refrained from making any comment on the CEC.

Meanwhile,External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said the Government will examine Gopalaswami’s letter and give its response in “due course”. Official sources said the President had forwarded the CEC’s recommendation to the Prime Minister’s Office before Manmohan Singh was admitted to the hospital for a bypass surgery. The letter has been forwarded to the Law Ministry for legal opinion.

Top Congress sources,however,said there is no question of the Government agreeing to Chawla’s removal. They added that the Government had earlier refused to entertain pleas from “certain quarters” to extend Gopalaswami’s term — which will end on April 19 — till the completion of the electoral process.

Given the “divisive political climate” though,there are some questions about Chawla’s promotion as CEC when the time comes,said sources adding that a “political call” has to be taken on these issues.

Earlier in the day,senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the CEC has the power to recommend removal of any member from the poll panel. “The Central Government has no discretion in this matter. It is bound by this recommendation,” he said. Jaitley said there are allegations that Chawla suffers from political bias. “He has bias in favour of the ruling party that comprises the Central Government. The beneficiary of the bias cannot adjudicate the existence of the bias,” he said.

Coming out in support of Chawla,the Congress said he has acted “most impartially” and there is no need for him to resign. “It is not in the interest of any political party to cast aspersions on members of Election Commission,” AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh told reporters here.

The Congress said it had a “lot of things to say” about other ECs,but was restraining itself as it felt the poll panel should be “above suspicion”. “On the issue of Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla,we have a lot of things to say regarding other Election Commissioners. But we are not doing that,” Singh said,adding that all political parties should refrain from commenting on the Election Commissioners. NCP general secretary D P Tripathi and LJP president Ramvilas Paswan also refused to comment on issues involving constitutional posts.

Left parties said the CEC’s recommendation has created suspicion of political motive. “It appears to be unsustainable according to the law,” CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said. He added that the timing of the recommendation was “suspicious” for two reasons — first,it was done just before Gopalaswami is slated to relinquish office and secondly,general elections are on the anvil. “If this was his opinion (regarding Chawla),he should have taken a position a year ago when L K Advani and the BJP had lodged a complaint,” Yechury said.

CPI national secretary D Raja said the timing of the the CEC’s recommendation led to serious suspicion of “sinister political motive”. “The CEC is aware that general election is approaching. Having known this,making such a recommendation at the fag end of his career leads to genuine suspicion of a political motive,” he said. Raja was of the opinion that it was high time the whole question of the appointment of removal of ECs was re-examined.

RJD vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said Gopalaswami’s recommendation has no value. “The CEC and the other two ECs are on equal footing. The only way an EC can be removed is through impeachment and thereby,the recommendation can be ignored.”

T K S Elangovan,DMK political secretary,said his party was in no position to react,but added that there was a question whether it was constitutionally possible. “Both the CEC and the ECs are appointed by the President. The ECs are appointed not on the recommendation of the CEC and so I think the CEC has no say in their removal,” he said.

“We are not privy to the letter between the CEC and the President,if any. Since this issue concerns constitutional posts,I would not like to comment on it,” said Samajwadi Party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav,describing this controversy as “ill-timed” given the forthcoming Lok Sabha election.

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