Nation needs Gopalaswami, not Chawla

via published on February 2, 2009

B R Haran


politics gets into the hands of corrupts and criminals democracy loses
its meaning. Democracy can retain its sanctity only when the
politicians remain perfect. The Indian democracy
largely remained pure, despite a few impediments here and there, but
lost its sanctity when Indhra Gandhi imposed ’emergency’ on this
nation. Since then democracy has been deteriorating steadily with the
influx of crime and corruption. This resulted in the steady decline in
the credibility of ‘independent’ institutions like Police, CBI,
Judiciary and now the Election Commission.


Navin Chawla
must be a ‘bad omen’ as he came into the limelight during the darkest
chapter of Independent India’s history, that is, emergency. He had
played extremely controversial roles, as a loyal servant of the Nehru
family, during emergency period taking commands from them and
inflicting huge injuries on this nation (the scars will remain for
ever). He had also faced the worst kind of indictment from the Shah Commission,
which probed the ‘excessive’ role of the executive during that period,
dubbing him totally ‘unfit’ to hold any public office. But then, the
demise of the Janatha government in a short span of time had helped him
to survive and he reaped the benefits for being loyal, the moment
Indhra came back to power and since then he has been climbing up the
ladder to reach the present coveted level.


a few months of his appointment as Election Commissioner in May 2005,
his allegiance to the Congress party in general and Nehru family in
particular was exposed by the media and the opposition BJP/NDA duly
took up the matter to the President’s office. More than 200 Memebers of
belonging to NDA signed a memorandum, requesting for the removal of
Navin Chawla, submitted to the then President Dr Abdul Kalam. The BJP,
through Jaswant Singh, opposition leader in Rajya Sabha, followed it up with a petition in the Supreme Court in May 2006 praying for his removal. As the Chief Election Commissioner
Gopalswami rightly filed an affidavit saying that he had the powers to
remove any member of the EC for substantial reasons, the BJP withdrew
the petition and forwarded it to the CEC.


CEC, who has an impeccable track record and is known for his
uprightness, has studied the complaints against Chawla and observed his
conduct as the EC too, even while communicating with him asking for
clarifications. It has now come out in the open that it was Chawla who
has actually deliberately delayed in responding and finally sent in his
reply as late as December 2008. Also, as an Election Commissioner,
Chawla had tried to delay the Karnataka Elections in favour of congress party
and roped in the External Affairs Ministry to bail out Sonia in the
Belgium Monarchy’s Leopold Award episode. Presumably, having satisfied
with the authenticity of the complaints and not convinced by Chawla’s
clarification, the CEC has promptly sent his recommendations to the
President for his removal. His action cannot be faulted, because, the
Constitution (Clause 5 of Article 324) has entitled him and the Supreme
Court had also affirmed the fact in the T N Seshan vs. Union of India
(1995) case. But, it is not clear whether the President consulted the
legal and Constitutional experts before forwarding the CEC’s letter to
the central government. Considering the ‘indications’ from the centre,
it is most unlikely that Chawla will be removed.


Meanwhile, a web-portal has reported that the Union Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Choudhury and Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad
have tried to influence the CEC to delay the announcement of the poll
dates, as they have some ‘beneficial schemes’ to be announced. It is
obvious that they are worried about the ‘model code of conduct’, which
would come into effect after the announcement of poll dates. If
ministers have the gumption to attempt influencing an upright officer
like Gopalswami, one can imagine what will happen if they have a very
pliable person like Navin Chawla at the helm of affairs in the EC.


Election Commissioner S Y Quareshi’s London announcement seems to be
intended to help the UPA government, so that, it could make populist
announcements before the beginning of the model code of conduct. As,
both Chawla and Quareshi seem to be flexible and lenient to the UPA
government, the retirement of Gopalswami by 20 April will help a lot
for the government if the general elections are held after April 20
with Chawla as the CEC. As the present parliament’s term ends in April,
the general elections have to be held in April-May and the announcement
has to be made before that by the CEC. Gopalswami will certainly do
that before retirement.


a few questions remain: Was the President right in forwarding the CEC’s
recommendation to the PMO? Can the PMO and the centre sit on the CEC’s
letter till his retirement? What will the NDA do? Will it approach the
Supreme Court again? What will UPA do in the event of CEC’s
recommendations based on authentic evidences against Chawla? Will
Chawla have the decency to quit on his own on moral grounds? Will the
government extend the tenure of CEC in the interest of the nation? Or
will it bother about its own self-interests and keep Chawla as the CEC?


this kind of a scenario, a general election under the stewardship of
Chawla will be a mockery of democracy and may even prove to be
disastrous for the nation. The Nation must come out of it. The
Narasimha Rao government, which amended the Constitution to include two
more Election Commissioners
with a political motive to check T N Seshan, failed to anticipate a
situation like the present, which has resulted in a conundrum now. The
need of the hour is an extension to Gopalswami’s term and the removal
of Chawla. Will it happen?           


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