Gopalaswami, Chawla Appear Together After Stand-off

New Delhi
Gopalaswami, Chawla Appear Together After Stand-off

Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami and Election Commissioner Navin Chawla appeared together in public for the first time after the controversy over the recommendation for Chawla's removal came into the open and political parties said the Commission should not give an impression of division at the top.

As news camerapersons clicked merrily, Gopalaswami and Chawla were seen smiling, but not at each other.

The occasion was a meeting convened by the EC to elicit views of national and state political parties before firming up the schedule for the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Though no leader directly referred to the stand off after the CEC recommended removal of Chawla, some leaders mentioned it broadly in the meeting and suggested that the EC should not give an impression that it is divided as it would "dampen the spirit" of the polls.

CPI MP D Raja said the "neutrality, integrity and objectivity" of the constitutional body should be maintained and nothing should be done that will damage EC's reputation.

Senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters after the meeting that Congress was protecting an individual while "we are protecting an institution".

 Noting that it was for the first time that the credibility of the EC has been questioned, Naqvi said BJP was not against any particular person.

Union Minister and RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said all parties were of the view that EC should function as one face .

Another Union Minister and senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said he was confident EC will perform its duty impartially in favour of democracy.

Asked if the issue figured at the meeting, he said today's meeting discussed the poll process as it was not a forum to discuss divisions in the EC.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said there should be no politicisation of the EC and wanted the controversy to be resolved before the Lok Sabha polls. "The impartiality of the EC should be maintained," he said.

To a question, he said some law should be framed to debar a retired Election Commissioner from joining any political party.

One of the leaders, who attended the meeting said Gopalaswami called Chawla as "colleague"

"Now our colleague will speak," Gopalaswami is said to have remarked pointing towards Chawla after his introductory remarks.

He said there were no moments of tension between the two during the meeting, which was held in a cordial atmosphere.

"As the discussions were underway, the CEC and EC chipped in with their views and there were no signs of any serious difference between them," he said.

When smaller parties like PMK and Forward Bloc raised the issue of controversy in the EC, the two commissioners preferred to remain silent.

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