Chawla Factor   (01 May 2009)


Now that Navin Chawla and VS Sampat have assumed charge as India’s Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner respectively, I hope the bitter controversy surrounding the Election Commissioners last year will remain a forgettable matter of the past. All political parties should be wiser enough to stop dragging the Election Commission or its Commissioners into political controversies. On one hand, BJP’s Arun Jaitley has no love lost for Navin Chawla and the former has never missed an opportunity to throw dirt at Chawla. Time and again Jaitley calls a press conference to attack Chawla, completely disregarding the fact that in today’s age of media, the Election Commission absolutely cannot take sides or harass any party.

On the other hand, the real issue must rise above persons and settle on the institution of Election Commission. The commission is an independent constitutional body and its commissioners are seen as constitutional appointees. Spinning political controversies around the conduct of Election Commissioners – that too for personal agenda – is nothing but a surefire way to diminish the Election Commission’s credibility.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind today that elections in India are now fiercely independent. Election Commission has supreme authority over the conduct of elections across the length and breadth of India. No politician is now able to unduly influence elections and booth capturing is a thing of the past. All this has happened because Election Commission has worked towards earning its distinct authority over the last ten years. No government departments across centre and states, and no political party in the country hold any sway over the Commission. The Election Commission fully deserves its independent credentials and it is in our best interests to preserve these credentials.

Congress never made any attempt to question the conduct of the outgoing CEC N Gopalaswamy throughout his term, even while everyone knew of his closeness to BJP’s LK Advani. Congress knew that accusing Gopalaswamy for any of his lapses would be tantamount to denigrating the credibility of Election Commission and would harm our national interest. The new appointees in Navin Chawla and Qureshi deserve similar respect from all parties; else the consequences will prove to be far damaging for India for a long time to come.