Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Criticising the government’s proposal to create parity among the three members of the Election Commission, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday sought to know from the Left parties whether they would “blindly support the constitutionally inappropriate action of the Congress party.”

Reacting to Law and Justice Minister H. R. Bhardwaj’s disclosure that the government was considering an amendment to the Constitution to give the Election Commissioners equal powers, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley, in a statement, said his party’s worst fears had been confirmed.

Questioning the government’s mandate to attempt such an amendment as it did not have a two-thirds majority in either House of Parliament even with the support of its allies, Mr. Jaitley said this had “once again” put the Left parties on trial. “They will have to make a judgment whether to blindly support the constitutionally inappropriate action of the Congress party or lean in favour of strengthening independent constitutional institutions.”

According to Mr. Jaitley, the proposal to create parity among the three members was an attempt to make the NDA’s petition (on the removal of Navin Chawla as Election Commissioner) “infructuous.”

Stating that the Election Commission should be politically detached and equi-distanced, he warned of the pitfalls “if the practice of appointing partisan persons as member of the Election Commission gets established as a precedent.” It would tempt future governments to pack the Commission with its own sympathisers.

“The threat is more acute because it is not an independent collegium that nominates the members of the Election Commission but the political government of the day.”

Mr. Jaitley said: “Here is a government in power which, to save Mr. Chawla, is willing to go to the extent of amending the Constitution. This statement is conclusive of how much value the Congress party attaches to the continuation of Mr. Chawla as a member of the Election Commission. When this statement is read in the context of the action of Prime Minister’s Office in not even forwarding the petition seeking Mr. Chawla’s removal to the CEC for his recommendations, the vested interest of the Congress party in the continuation of Mr. Chawla as a member of the Election Commission gets confirmed.”

NDA petition

The National Democratic Alliance had petitioned the CEC last Wednesday to remove Mr. Chawla on the grounds that he had “leaked” information about the Commission’s meetings and was in “close proximity” to the Congress party.

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