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|October 14, 2002|
One way to tame an 'errant' chief election commissioner is to appoint more election commissioners. And that's precisely what the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government is trying now.
CEC J M Lyngdoh fell from grace when he refused an early poll in Gujarat. So a proposal has been made to increase the number of commissioners from the present three to five.
The ruling politicians hope the new appointees will ensure the government's will.
This is the same technique the P V Narasimha Rao government used to clip T N Seshan's wings when, as CEC in the 1990s, he went about roaring that his preferred breakfast was politicians, not idli-wada.
In the recent case, what has surprised the government is Election Commissioner B B Tandon's stand. A mild-mannered man, it believed he would be grateful for his post-retirement appointment as the third EC.
But Tandon supported the CEC on postponing the Gujarat election until complete normalcy is restored in the state.
The government has challenged the Election Commission's order in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it violates the constitutional obligation that election to a state legislature should be held within six months of its last session.
But even as the court deliberates on the verdict, the government has moved to curb Lyngdoh's freedom by deciding in principle to appoint two more election commissioners.
It seems a couple of retired IPS officers and former judges have been short-listed. The government better keep its fingers crossed that the new appointees do not follow in Tandon's footsteps!
The price of being a Gandhi
At the Indian Air Force's 70th anniversary celebrations on October 8, photographers were distracted by the presence of a child in his father's lap --- so much so that instead of clicking fighter jets zooming overhead, they all made a beeline for the little boy.
The object of their attention was the youngest member of the Nehru-Gandhi clan --- Rehan, son of Priyanka and Robert Vadra.
When word reached Priyanka, she is said to have blown a fuse. The last thing she wanted was her son beaming from a thousand newspapers the next morning.
So, Rehan's grandmother Sonia Gandhi moved in to contain the damage and had her staff call up Delhi-based editors to protect her grandson's privacy.
Most newspapers, barring a new-fangled multi-edition daily, obliged. But the mischief was done by a national news agency, which released the photograph.
On the lecture circuit
What do Presidents do when they retire?
Well, some fade away quietly, while others join the lecture/seminar circuit --- like K R Narayanan.
He put in his first appearance at the India International Centre a few weeks ago. Last week, he was seen at a dinner hosted by Attorney General Soli Sorabjee for members of the visiting British Human Rights Commission.
Narayanan, with wife Usha in tow, was the object of much curiosity since this was his first outing in informal party circles after he left Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Another guest who drew attention was former Maharashtra governor P C Alexander, who missed by a whisker living in the prestigious palace on Raisina Hill.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh
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