Recent EC Appointment
Amid elections to State Assemblies, petitions in the Supreme Court have stirred a hornet’s nest with the recent appointment process of former bureaucrat Arun Goel as Election Commissioner coming into question. On Thursday last, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Joseph questioned the “haste” and “tearing hurry” with which Union government appointed him, observing his file travelled at “lightning speed” within departments in 24 hours! Unheard of indeed. This apart, it questioned how the law minister shortlisted a panel of four names when none would have completed the stipulated 6-year tenure in office. (Goel would be in office for 5 years after CEC Rajiv Kumar demits office in February 2025.) The enbarrasment for New Delhi started a day earlier, when the top court observed: “There have been numerous CECs and T N Seshan happens once in a while. We don’t want anyone to bulldoze him. Enormous power has been vested on the fragile shoulder of three men. We have to find the best man for the post of CEC. The question is how do we find that best man and how to appoint that best man.” It was hearing of a bunch of pleas seeking reform in the system of appointing the ECs and a collegium-like system for their selection.
Much to the chagrin of the government, the court asked for the files on the appointment of Goel. At the outset it clarified it wasn’t questioning the merits of new EC’s credentials but the process. The dates raise eyebrows: The matter was heard on November 18; on same day, the file was moved and the PM recommended Goel’s name to President. The vacancy in NirvachanSadan happened on May 15. The court asked: “Can you show us from the records that from May 15 to November 18 what was done? What prevailed upon the government that the appointment was made so fast in one day? …. Same day the file was processed, same day clearance, same day application and same day appointment. File has not even travelled for 24 hours. Why was the file cleared with lightning fast speed?” Certainly, the question whether all is “hunky-dory” remains. Importantly, the court flagged Article 324 of the Constitution, on appointment of ECs and said it doesn’t provide the procedure for such appointments. Moreover, “the Article had envisaged the enactment of a law by Parliament in this regard, which has not been done in the last 72 years, leading to exploitation by the Centre.” More need not be said, but Union government must clear the air. For lingering doubts about free and fair elections are unhealthy for any democracy.
Rajasthan Cong Tamasha
Congress should consider embarking on a ‘Party jodo yatra’ given the ongoing political tamasha in Rajasthan. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot bickering’s are getting uglier, causing a major embarrassment to the grand old party. Gehlot has ruffled feathers when he called Pilot a “gaddar (traitor) who colluded with BJP” and that he can never become the Chief Minister of the state. This on the day Pilot joined the ‘Bharat jodo yatra’ led by Rahul Gandhi in the State. Pilot has hit back saying it ‘wasn’t part of his upbringing to use such language’ as the CM did. Instead, priority must be to fight unitedly to defeat BJP and strengthen Rahul’s hand and “Someone who is so experienced, senior and whom party has given so much, it’s unbecoming to use this language, make such completely false and baseless allegations.” The young leader found support from a minister RS Gudha who threw a challenge to Gehlot saying “We will leave our stake for the chief ministership if you do not find 80% MLAs with Pilot…No better politician than him.” Party headquarters has condemned Gehlot’s remark and said the differences should be resolved in a manner that strengthens the Congress. Easier said than done!
Maha, Karnataka Border Row
The BJP has trouble on its hands with Maharashtra and Karnataka with the inter-State border row escalating. The trigger was pressed by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday last, when he said “No village in Maharashtra will go to Karnataka! The state government will fight strongly in the Supreme Court to get Marathi speaking villages in Karnataka including Belgaum-Karwar-Nipani!” Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai hit back terming his statement as “provocative” and elaborating “His (Fadnavis’) dream will never come true. Our government is committed to protecting our state’s land, water and borders.” Plus raising the demand that “Kannada speaking areas of Maharashtra like Solapur and Akkalkot should join Karnataka.” Remember, the dispute goes back to the 60s after reorganisation of States on linguistic lines and the matter is in Supreme Court. Both sides are gearing up their legal battle in the case filed by Maharashtra in 2004, which is to come up soon. Bommai is confident that Mumbai has not succeeded and will not in future either. Politics apart, will there be a resolution? Keeping the iron hot is one thing, but bickering within the family doesn’t bode well for the BJP.
Gujarat Muscle, Money Power
Money and muscle power continue to rule the roost. A profile of candidates in the 1st phase of December Gujarat Assembly polls confirms trend. Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) report on Thursday last stated ruling BJP contesting all 89 seats, has 79 candidates (89%) of its nominees with assets above Rs 1 crore, followed by Congress with 65 candidates (73%) and Aam Aadmi Party with 33 candidates (38%) fighting 88 seats! While average assets per candidate is Rs 2.88 crore, BJP candidate from Rajkot South constituency is the ‘richest’ with Rs 175 crore. On other side, an independent candidate from Rajkot West seat has ‘zero’ assets. Party-wise average assets are BJP, Rs 13.40 crore, Congress Rs 8.38 crore and AAP Rs1.99 crore. Additionally, 167 candidates (21%) of total 788 contesting are ‘facing criminal cases’ (100 and 12% serious charges like murder or rape) with AAP topping the list, 32 nominees (36%), followed by Congress 31 candidates (35%) and BJP, 14 candidates (16%); the Bhartiya Tribal Party, has 4 such candidates (29%). In comparison to Assembly election in 2017, percentages on both fronts have increased. The parties obviously have paid no heed to the Supreme Court’s direction on selection of candidates (with no criminal background, rather looks like saying a big boo. So much for political parties’ pledging a clean and corruption-free government!! — INFA