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Revealed: CEC's letter accusing Chawla of Congress bias

Revealed: CEC's letter accusing Chawla of Congress bias

Author: Maneesh Chhibber
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 4, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/revealed-cecs-letter-accusing-chawla-of-congress-bias/430601/0

Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami's recommendation that his colleague Navin Chawla should be removed because of his pro-Congress bias may have been rejected by the Government but it has been kept under wraps.

A copy of it, obtained by The Indian Express, reveals that the CEC, in his 93-page note on January 16 this year, went beyond the BJP's complaints to list a dozen allegations against Chawla.

According to his note, these are:

oUP ASSEMBLY POLLS (2007): The CEC alleges Chawla tried to get polls postponed arguing that the UPA Govt had been asked by the Congress to impose President's Rule in the state. He wanted the EC to seek legal opinion but was over-ruled. CEC claims EC S Y Quraishi knew that Chawla would convey the information to Congress leaders. "A minute before Commission meeting started at 4 pm, Dr Quraishi who arrived before Sh Chawla mentioned that he was contacted by two senior Congress leaders in regard to dates," CEC's letter says.

oDISSENT BY CHAWLA ON

KARNATAKA POLLS (2008): Chawla tried to stonewall EC's efforts to complete the election process by May 29, 2008 deadline, opposed view of Commission's law officer on how to prepare electoral rolls. And was overruled. CEC claims Quraishi told him "his name should not be taken as he was already under pressure".

oPROCEEDINGS AGAINST SONIA GANDHI OVER BELGIUM TITLE (2007): While proceedings were on against Sonia Gandhi for having accepted title of Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold in 2006 from the Belgium Government, Chawla opposed move to What CEC accused Chawla of

issue a notice to Gandhi. He leaked information to PMO, after which Principal Secretary to PM met CEC to "persuade undersigned against giving an opinion for issue of notice". "It would be rational to infer that he had passed on the information, about the imminence of a decision in this case, to the highest functionary of the Government which resulted in a representative being sent to remonstrate with me," the CEC writes.

oBHAGALPUR RE-POLL REQUEST (OCT-NOV 2005): Chawla tried to get the EC - B B Tandon was CEC then - to order re-poll in three villages which had boycotted elections after alleged derogatory comments - "this is Pakistan Mohalla" - of EC Adviser K J Rao. Even though video recordings showed Rao had said no such thing, Chawla was adamant, wrote a dissenting order, which he wanted to be kept under wraps.

oCONTROVERSIAL BJP CD CASE IN UP POLLS (2007): EC decided to file FIR against BJP chief and others, for releasing a propaganda CD containing "communally slanted" content on April 3, 2007. Chawla wanted freezing of BJP symbol as an interim step before April 14, the date on which nominations for last phase of polls were to begin. He also wanted continuous hearings in the matter. But, when, on April 8, BJP sought his recusal from the case due to his "bias," Chawla changed his stand on the need to freeze the symbol. Despite suggestions from CEC, Quraishi, as well as EC's legal adviser, Chawla refused to recuse.

oGUJARAT, HP POLL SCHEDULE ISSUE (2007): When EC wanted to hold three-phase polls in Gujarat and advance polling in Himachal to hold simultaneous elections to all 68 seats, Chawla leaked information to Congress. CEC claims to have received phone call from a Gujarat MP, "who was very high up in the Congress Party hierarchy in Delhi", pleading against the EC's still-to-be-finalised move. This MP also offered to get 150 companies of paramilitary forces more for Gujarat to enable EC to hold polling in two phases. Within 10 minutes, Union Home Secretary too rang up, offering 150 companies of paramilitary forces more. In a few minutes, Chawla told Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of Gujarat that the Home Secretary had spoken to him, offering additional force.

oPUNJAB ASSEMBLY POLLS (2007): After media reports that voter I-cards were being bought just before election date, state Chief Secretary called up CEC to seek relaxation of stipulation that voter I-cards be produced at polling station for identity purposes. Within minutes, then Chief Minister made the same request but it was rejected.

Within hours (late at night) Chawla called up Deputy Election Commissioner in charge of Punjab and sought information about use of I-cards. ".. it appeared hat he was trying to see if some infirmity could be found in the instructions on that same issue. The coincidence is too striking to go unnoticed," the CEC writes.

oPOSTPONEMENT OF BEAS (PUNJAB) POLLING (2007): After violence in the constituency, EC postponed polling. The Congress candidate challenged the decision in High Court, which ruled in his favour and ordered voting to be held before counting at other centres. Chawla opposed the decision to file an appeal in SC - which, incidentally, set aside HC order. ".. the reason he gave was that, in his opinion, EC should not go against the order of Chief Justice as in future it could be held against us (i.e. if EC were to approach the HC of Punjab in any other matter). Chawla's plea was overruled.

oUP ASSEMBLY ELECTION: DEORIA LATHICHARGE CASE (2007): After lathicharge by police on Youth Congress workers, Chawla wanted District Magistrate and the police chief suspended and when this was not accepted, sought their transfer. "No rational explanation can be given for his seeking the suspension or transfer of SP and DM except for the fact that the incident involved Youth Congress workers, an evidence of his bias in favour of one party," the CEC writes.

oGUJARAT POLLS: VIOLATION OF MODEL CODE BY SONIA GANDHI, NARENDRA MODI (2007): When the EC issued notice to Gandhi for her "Maut ka saudagar" statement, Chawla "tried" to give an impression that he had dissented, even though he had not.

oGOA BY-ELECTION (2005): When Goa Governor interfered in the electoral process, then CEC (Tandon) and Gopalaswami decided to pull up Chief Secretary Kiran Dhingra and write to the Governor that his instructions to officers amounted to interference in electoral process. Chawla tried to control the situation, offered to speak to the Governor.

oREGISTRATION OF INDIRA CONGRESS (KARUNAKARAN) (2005): Chawla tried to delay grant of sanction to K Karunakaran's newly formed party to allow Congress to oppose the matter before the Commission. Passed on information to Congress functionaries.

Besides these, the CEC's note has his comments to allegations against Chawla in the petition filed by Leader of the Opposition L K Advani and 179 other MPs on January 30, 2008, seeking his removal.

The BJP's allegations pertained to the Bhagalpur re-poll, Karunakaran's symbol, Punjab poll dates and freezing the BJP's election symbol.


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