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War clouds over the Election Commission

War clouds over the Election Commission

Author: Radha Rajan
Publication: Vigilonline.com
Date: February 4, 2009

"Politics is the ideal of the kshatriya, and the morality of the kshatriya ought to govern our political actions", wrote Aurobindo in 'The morality of Boycott', the last article in his masterly and unparalleled exposition on Passive Resistance in April 1907. The BJP leadership would do well to sit up and pay heed to these words. The Chief Election Commissioner, by asking the President to remove Navin Chawla as Election Commissioner has stuck his neck out for the health of this country's democracy; and every one of those legal and constitutional experts and the usual mandarins in the media castigating the CEC for making this recommendation, are without exception, those with highly remunerative careers drawing sustenance from the politics of minority-ism. People who care about the country and its high democratic institutions should not permit the CEC's courage in putting a spanner in Congress and Chawla's works to become futile and fruitless. This is the time to stand up and break the polite silence over the growing trend to defile and corrupt high institutions where an undeserving candidate's loyalty to this family and the individual tilts the balance at the time of appointment.

"Those who don't appoint the Election Commissioner can't remove him", said Kapil Sibal and a truer word hath not been said. There is no UPA, much less a Congress; there is only Sonia Gandhi. She hand-picked the Prime Minister, the NSA, the incumbents to two of the country's most sensitive constitutional posts including the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the two Election Commissioners who have triggered the crisis by planting a constitutional IED inside Nirvachan Sadan. Each and every one of them personally, or someone in the family is a Sonia Gandhi (family) loyalist/close friend. If anyone can remove Navin Chawla, only Sonia Gandhi can.

Constitutional experts agree that the last call on the issue can be taken only by the President of India. Not that the President of India can act independently; he/she can ask the CEC to remove an Election Commissioner only if the Cabinet so advises the President. This brings us back to the core theme of this column - when an extra-constitutional authority appoints undeserving candidates to high constitutional positions for reasons other than merit, then no person so appointed and who owes his/her ascent to Sonia Gandhi is going to make any move to remove another Sonia Gandhi loyalist. That is the truth about the state of this country's democracy. But will she? Sonia Gandhi, a practicing Christian, breezed into Tirupathi, bypassing the established, mandatory custom of signing the register by non-Hindus who desire to seek darshan of the Bhagwan. If the lady can offer short shrift to the presiding deity of Tirupathi, she can dare anything.

If we cut out the verbiage casting aspersions on Gopalswamy Iyengar's character and professional integrity and ignore the hot air ranting of our experts and mandarins, the core submissions of the vendors of politics of minority-ism, including the Law Minister HL Bharadwaj are -
1. The 'C' in the CEC is only ornamental and not substantive
2. The CEC cannot recommend, suo motu or otherwise, the removal of any other EC
3. Navin Chawla will succeed Gopalswamy Iyengar as CEC

Fali Nariman, the jurist who our vendors love to quote on just such an occasion, on the other hand, makes the customary genuflection to his political ideology but nevertheless makes the following core submissions -
1. The issue falls in a constitutional "grey area" because the constitution is not clear about whether the CEC has suo motu powers to recommend the removal of an Election Commissioner
2. But to his mind (which is not relevant at all) the CEC has no suo motu power
3. The Supreme Court had left the issue wide open two years ago when the issue first came up before it
4. Navin Chawla has no 'right' to automatically ascend to post of CEC. That the senior-most person has been promoted to the post is only government practice and not a matter of law or Constitution

Had Fali Nariman summoned the courage and taken his argument further in national interest, he would have said that the Chief Justice of India too ascends to his post, no matter how undeserving he or she may be, only because he happens to be the senior-most in the assembly line. The ascent has nothing to do with merit and his appointment is more a matter of practice than a point of law or Constitution. Noted political commentator BS Raghavan (retd.) senior bureaucrat from the Union Home Ministry has made startling revelations about Navin Chawla's extremely dubious antecedents. Excerpts from Shri Raghavan's damning disclosure about Navin Chawla's disreputable past deserve to be quoted at length -

"I can boldly assert that I am the only living former civil servant who, as a Member-Secretary of the high power Committee to advise follow-up action on the report of the Emergency Excesses Inquiry Commission chaired by the former Supreme Court Chief Justice, J.C.Shah, had dealt with every aspect of the Commission's indictment of Mr. Navin Chawla, who is currently in the news for the wrong reasons.

As part of our mandate, even though Justice Shah himself was an eminent jurist with thoroughness as his forte, in order to make assurance doubly sure, we went into his entire report with great objectivity and an open mind to convince ourselves that his findings were duly substantiated by oral and documentary evidence.

At the time of the Emergency of 1975-77, Mr. Navin Chawla was Private Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Kishan Chand (who later committed suicide unable to bear the 'humiliation' following the adverse finding about him in the Shah Commission's report). According to Justice Shah, Mr. Chawla, along with his cohorts in the police at the time, "exercised enormous powers during the emergency because they had easy access to the then Prime Minister's house. Their approach to the problems of the period relating to the citizens was authoritarian and callous. They grossly misused their position and abused their powers in cynical disregard of the welfare of the citizens, and in the process rendered themselves unfit to hold any public office which demands an attitude of fair play and consideration for others. In their relish for power, they completely subverted the normal channels of command and administrative procedures.'' Shocking material!

Mr. Chawla was also found to have exercised 'extra statutory control in jail matters', including 'the treatment of detenues'. Not confining himself to dictating to his boss as to the persons to be arrested, he also prescribed how they were to be treated in prison. For instance, he was for constructing special cells with asbestos roofs to "bake" certain prisoners. Kishan Chand pathetically admitted to Justice Shah that he was not a free agent and Mr. Chawla used to receive instructions directly from Sanjay Gandhi and he (Kishan Chand) came into the picture only to the extent that he was required to fulfill some technical formalities.

The L. P. Singh Committee had no doubt that the shocking material contained in the Shah Commission's report indeed made Mr. Chawla unfit to hold any public office and that he deserved to be summarily dismissed from service without any further inquiry or proceedings, invoking the special powers under provisos (b) and (c) of Article 311 of the Constitution. This precisely was the fate Mr. Chawla would have met with but for the fall of the Janata Government and return of Indira Gandhi to power resulting in the restoration to coveted posts with a vengeance of all those indicted by Justice Shah.

Appointing a person with such a background to the Election Commission which is the fountainhead of all other institutions of democracy was itself a brazen defiance of norms of accountability and decencies of public life. This is quite apart from the allegations of bounties received from the Congress Government in Rajasthan and a number of Congress MPs.by the Jaipur-based Lala Chaman Lal Education Trust established by Mr. Chawla and his wife, and the unsavoury speculation engendered by the Government of Italy conferring on him the Mazzini award in March 2005 'in recognition of his efforts to forge a new relationship with Italy and strengthening existing bonds'". (End quote)

Now the last is significant for two reasons. The first which tickles my curiosity - how did the UPA government which quakes in fear of Savarkar and his legacy permit their minion to receive the Government of Italy award given in the name of Mazzini, Savarkar's hero? And second, "his efforts to forge a new relationship with Italy" is euphemism for being a committed Sonia Gandhi loyalist and family doormat. This penchant by US and Europe to give awards to anti-Hindu activists is becoming more brazen by the day. This penchant includes Magsaysay awards, sundry Peace Prizes including the Nobel Peace Prize, Human rights awards, and now more recently, the American Library of Congress Kluge Prize for Arun Shourie's 'eminent' historian, Romilla Thapar. Now read this together with the Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan berating the Orissa government for inaction in the fake rape of the nun case because he was "receiving innumerable calls from abroad", and we have impermissible interference by and intrusive interest of foreign governments in India's internal matters.

A man who has been indicted for gross human rights abuse during Emergency, a man who was profiteering from an NGO run by his wife, a man who 'persuaded' MPs to part with their MPLAD funds to oil his wife's NGO, and a man who has been publicly held unfit to hold any public office is elevated by Sonia Gandhi as Election Commisioner with a view to delivering him at the end of the assembly line as CEC at the time of the next Lok Sabha elections. This and only this is the issue.

The BJP cannot be making polite constitutional noises on Advani's blog nor send nincompoops into TV newsrooms on the issue. Politics is the work of kshatriyas, as Aurobindo pointed out. We need warriors in the BJP who will un-sheath their daggers to fight this no-holds-barred war. The ultimate objective of a political party is to win elections and become the ruling party. If the process is turned into a war, then winning the elections becomes the objective of the war. Noble souls, living by dharma, including kshatriyas enter the battlefield to wage war dharmically. But the true kshatriya, in this case, the BJP must realise that their war strategy is determined by the enemy. If the enemy enters the battlefield determined to win the war at any cost, including playing foul and dirty, then the kshatriya has to change his tactics and fight the enemy effectively to defeat him.

Justice and righteousness are the atmosphere of political morality; but the justice and righteousness of a fighter, not of the priest. Aggression is unjust only when unprovoked; violence, unrighteous when used wantonly for unrighteous ends. It is a barren philosophy which applies a mechanical rule to all actions, or takes a word and tries to fit all human life into it.

The sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfillment of justice and righteousness as the holiness of the saint. Ramdas is not complete without Shivaji. To maintain justice and prevent the strong from despoiling, and the weak from being oppressed, is the function for which the kshatriya is created. 'Therefore', says Srikrishna in the Mahabharata, 'God created battle and armour, the sword, the bow and the dagger'.

This is Aurobindo again, in The Morality of Boycott. There is a growing feeling in the Hindu community that the BJP has lost the spirit of the kshatriya which defined the party once. The BJP must get into, not the election mode but the war mode. These elections, which the UPA, by playing dirty has converted into a war, must be fought by the BJP as war. Its greatest inspiration at this time can only be the young and angry Congressman, Aurobindo.

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