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Did poll panel chief trip on facts?

india Updated: Mar 04, 2009 01:15 IST
Nagendar Sharma
Nagendar Sharma
Hindustan Times
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Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N. Gopalaswami appears to have got his facts wrong while recommending the sacking of his colleague Navin Chawla, official records show. See popup

Gopalaswami, in his letter seeking the Election Commissioner’s sacking, mentioned that Chawla was “very keen” to take stern action against the BJP during the 2007 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Chawla felt that the party’s controversial CD, which became public, could have stoked religious passions.

This was one of the 12 points raised by Gopalaswami in his bid to establish that Chawla’s “political neutrality” was suspect and that his conduct during the last three-and-a-half years in the commission was not above board.

“The CEC mentioned that when the controversial BJP CD with alleged references to the Babri Masjid demolition and the 2002 Gujarat riots became public before the 2007 Uttar Pradesh elections, Navin Chawla wanted to freeze the party’s symbol for a few days,” said the government’s confidential report on the matter.

Gopalaswami had alleged that Chawla “deliberately wanted to delay action” on the issue as he wanted the controversy to simmer for a longer period. “This, in the CEC’s view would have helped Chawla build a case for freezing the BJP’s symbol at least for the first round of polling,” the report said.

The Election Commission (EC) records, however, show that there was no communication to show that Chawla intended to take such a step. The government, in its report, dismissed the allegation as “ridiculous”.

Chawla himself refused to comment on the issue but a source close to him strongly rebutted the allegations. “This is not true. They are a figment of somebody’s imagination,” the source, who did not want to be named, said.

“If Chawla wanted, he could have recorded his view in writing and was free to give a dissenting note. The fact is nothing of this sort happened. The commission’s records speak for themselves,” the source said.

CEC Gopalaswami also refused to comment on the matter. “I will speak after April 20,” was his only response.

“Frivolous allegations based on strained personal relations are not worthy of comment,” said Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj.

The government, meanwhile, is learnt to have initiated the process for appointment of Chawla as the new CEC, after Gopalaswami retires on April 20.