Tussle of two poll chiefs

NEW DELHI, JAN. 20. The continued stand-off between the ``two Delhi Election Commissioners'' over who has the legitimate right to hold the august office has cast its shadow over the MCD polls. The indecision on part of the Delhi Government has resulted in both S. Malaichamy and M.P. Tyagi slogging it out in court leaving the people, and democracy, in peril.

The dispute over who has the right to hold the office of Election Commissioner of Delhi has created uncertainty over its overall functioning where indecision has become the order of the day. While speculation continues and pressure seems to be building up from the BJP to postpone the election, the independence of the Commission in holding the polls has come into question. The feud between Mr. Malaichamy and Mr. Tyagi has raised doubts about the civic body polls.

For his part, the ``officiating'' Delhi Election Commissioner, Tyagi has refused to step in. On the other hand, Mr. Malaichamy continues to claim that he is still in-charge and Mr. Tyagi was only working under him. He has challenged the Delhi Government order removing him in the Delhi High Court. The case is scheduled to come up on January 24. Till then, the court has instructed that status quo be maintained. On its part, the Delhi Government has claimed that Mr. Malaichamy was only holding additional charge of the Commission and originally he was the Managing Director of Delhi Khadi and Village Industries Board.

What has caused the present anxiety over the conduct of polls is the inability of the Election Commission to come out with the poll process. It is argued that while the notification could be issued later, the schedule could be announced to set at rest speculation. Also, this would put an end to the inauguration spree being undertaken presently by the BJP-dominated MCD. What is preventing the Commission from taking such an action remains a mystery. But clearly the Election Commission is under pressure from the BJP and the Centre to delay the polls by citing some reason or the other.

Similarly, it is pointed out that while the Election Commission has written to the Union Home Ministry for deployment of para-military forces on February 21, this request is likely to be denied. The Centre is likely to cite the Assembly polls in States as the reason for its failure to provide Delhi the required force. But here again it is argued that by February 21, all the forces would be almost free from election duty and only the last phase of the Uttar Pradesh polls would be left.

This would enable the re-deployment of forces from other States to Delhi to ensure peaceful polls. Also surprising is the timing of Election Commission seeking security forces. The matter has been under discussion for almost a fortnight now and it had also been conveyed to the Election Commission as well as the Lieutenant-Governor, Vijai Kapoor, by the Congress Government. But the Election Commission thought it fit to write only two days ago asking for deployment of forces. The Election Commission, involved in a legal wrangle, has been at pains to take a decision on the subject leading to the present uncertainty.

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