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Indian CEC's role exemplary: Lord Steel

Lord David said the chief election commissioner's role in ensuring free and fair polls was worth emulating.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:31 IST
UK Bureau

Lauding the role played by the Indian Chief Election Commissioner in ensuring fair polls in India, LibDem founder Lord David Steel said it was an institution that many countries would do well to emulate.

Lord Steel was the guest of honour among other members of the high-profile Liberal Democrats Friends of India group at a reception hosted by High Commissioner of India Ronen Sen on Wednesday evening. Lord David Steel is the Speaker of the Scottish Parliament, former Leader of the LibDems and the founding president of the LibDem Friends of India.

He stressed that not many recognised the vital role played by the office of the Chief Election Commissioner in ensuring the fairness of the electoral process in India. It was was an institution that many countries would do well to emulate, he added.

The reception was held on the occasion of the annual conference of the Liberal Democrats party being currently held in Brighton and was attended by LibDem Party Leader Charles Kennedy, Baroness Shirley Williams, Leader in the House of Lords, and several prominent Members of Parliament. From the House of Lords, Party President Lord Navnit Dholakia, Lord Chris Rennard, Baroness Maddock, Baroness Northover, Baroness Harris, Lord Goodhart and Lord Fearn attended the event.Several members of the European Parliament and the Scottish Parliament were also present on the occasion.

High Commissioner Sen appreciated the role played by the LibDem Friends of India in strengthening relations between India and the United Kingdom. He highlighted the facts that foreign exchange reserves had crossed $87 billion and India had not only pre-paid several billion dollars of external debt but had also emerged as a significant donor to poorer countries and a creditor to the IMF. A projected GDP growth rate of 6.5 per cent, among other factors, for the current year demonstrated India’s resilience, despite the ongoing terrorist assaults on India, most recently in the gory Mumbai blasts.

Referring to the failure of the Cancun talks, High Commissioner said that India looked for greater market access and would continue to work for a more equitable and fair international trading system. He appreciated the LibDem support for outsourcing of services from India and a fairer multi-lateral trading system.

Lord Steel spoke of his deep affection and esteem for India and said that he had lost count of the number of times that he had visited the country, from which his daughter-in-law hailed. Charles Kennedy accepted High Commissioner Sen’s invitation to India and said he would seek to expand co-operation with India in a broad range of areas.

Referring to LibDem's recent by-election victory in Brent East, he said that he was proud of the fact that his party now represented the most ethnically-mixed parliamentary seat in UK. His party was strongly committed to securing fuller representation for ethnic minorities and would remain steadfast and unflinching in its fight against racism, he added.

Lord Navnit Dholakia, delivering the vote of thanks, paid a moving tribute to Lord Williams of Mostyn, whose untimely demise a few days back deprived India of a strong friend and supporter. Applauding the party’s victory in Brent East, Lord Dholakia reiterated the earlier comments by Lord Steel and Kennedy that the LibDems would never compromise on the issue of racial equality.

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST