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Govt says Gopalaswami was batting for BJP

The Government has accused Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami of recommending his colleague Navin Chawla’s removal since 'the BJP wanted it'. Nagendar Sharma examines...Strong words

india Updated: Mar 03, 2009 01:16 IST
Nagendar Sharma
Nagendar Sharma
Hindustan Times

The Government has accused Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami of recommending his colleague Navin Chawla’s removal since “the BJP wanted it”.

In its 20-page confidential note on the basis of which the President rejected Gopalaswami’s recommendation to sack Chawla, seen by HT, the Law Ministry slammed the CEC for allowing “mutual distrust” to grow in the commission.

“It appears the differences persisted right from the day when Chawla was appointed as Election Commissioner. The CEC allowed mutual distrust to grow, and took advantage of the situation to create grounds for Chawla’s removal, which BJP wanted,” the ministry wrote.

The ministry slammed Gopalaswami for his unilateral action based merely on “internal bickering”. Had the ministry decided to entertain his recommendation, the commission’s working would have been seriously hampered.

“The CEC’s letter would have gone to Chawla for his comments. In all likelihood, he may have levelled counter allegations, and ultimately we would have been forced to appoint a sitting or a retired Supreme Court judge to inquire into the allegations,” the ministry said.

At a time when the world was watching how the world’s largest democracy conducted elections, “...we can’t waste time on controversies of personal conflicts,” said the note.

The ministry dismissed the 12 instances cited by Gopalaswami to prove that Chawla lacked “political neutrality”, as issues that arose due to “difference of opinion.” Gopalaswami had given specific instances of assembly elections held in many states during the last two years to question Chawla’s “pro-Congress” bias.

Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj said the recommendation was rightly trashed. “The conclusion arrived at by the CEC was based on his own assumption,” he said.