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CPI decries Cong move to save Chawla

CPI decries Cong move to save Chawla

Author: Pioneer News Service
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 5, 2008

The Government's controversial move to amend the Constitution to bring parity among the three Election Commissioners (ECs) has been sharply criticised by the CPI.

"To amend the Constitution will amount to admitting that there is an attempt to save one person. The Constitution cannot be changed everyday,'' CPI general secretary AB Bardhan said here on Monday.

Bardhan's comment came a day after the BJP said the reported move was aimed at preempting a possible action by the Chief Election Commissioner against EC Navin Chawla and asked the Left parties to clarify their
position on the issue.

The controversy was triggered by Union Minister HR Bhardwaj's recent statement that the Government was considering a proposal to give equal status to all the Election Commissioners.

The Government's move was interpreted as an attempt to save Chawla for whose removal the BJP recently moved a petition with the Chief Election Commissioner on directives of the Supreme Court.

Under the existing provisions of the Constitution, the President can remove an Election Commissioner on the recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner but the CEC himself can be removed from office through a process of an impeachment motion passed by the two Houses of Parliament.

The Left's opposition to the proposed Constitutional amendment to bail out Chawla is likely to put the Government in a piquant situation.

The BJP petition for removal of Navin Chawla is based on its allegation that he is biased and close to top leadership of the Congress party.

BJP MPs had first moved a petition for Chawla's removal with the President of India and Kalam had forwarded it to the Prime Minister's Office for the CEC's recommendation.

But instead of referring the matter to the CEC, the Government referred the matter to the Attorney General and accepted his opinion that no case against Chawla was made out.

Alleging that the Government was blocking the constitutional process, the BJP had then approached the Supreme Court, which remarked that the Attorney General had no locus standi in the matter and the BJP could move its petition directly to the CEC, who will communicate his view to the President.

The BJP had reacted strongly to Bhardwaj's announcement that the Government planned to amend the Constitution and branded it a blatant attempt to save Navin Chawla. BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley had even asked the Left parties to clarify their stand on the Congress move.

The Left parties, which are becoming increasingly critical of the UPA Government's policies, are not comfortable with Law Minister's suggestion.

As Bardhan was quick to point out, the Left parties do not support the BJP's demand. But they are opposed to a constitutional amendment to counter the BJP move.

This is a setback for the Congress as constitutional amendments need two-thirds majority in Parliament. Without the support of the Left parties that would be impossible.

The stance of the Left on the issue may encourage the BJP to raise the pitch to get Chawla sacked, political observers feel.

BJP leaders are apprehensive that the Congress is bent upon appointing Chawla as the Chief Election Commissioner after the retirement of the present CEC N Gopalaswamy. The latter is due to retire before the next Lok Sabha elections in 2009.

The BJP leaders also feel that the Congress threat to amend the Constitution was also aimed at mounting pressure on Gopalaswami against acting on the BJP's plea to dismiss Chawla.

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