The government on Sunday rejected Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami's [Images] recommendation for removal of Navin Chawla [Images] as Election Commissioner, paving the way for his appointment to the key constitutional post. A Rashtrapati Bhawan communique said President Pratibha Patil [Images] has accepted the government recommendation for rejection of the CEC's report against Chawla and arrived at a "considered opinion".
The development comes days ahead of the announcement of schedule for the general elections and some Assembly polls. The three-member Commission is widely expected to announce the poll dates in a day or two.
The communique said "the government has recommended that the CEC's report and the recommendation to remove Navin Chawla from the post of Election Commissioner may be rejected. "The President, after careful consideration of the report of the CEC, the government's recommendation, constitutional provisions and the Supreme Court judgement, arrived at a considered opinion and has accepted the recommendation of the government," Rashtrapati Bhawan spokesperson Archana Dutta said.
Amid reports of differences between him and Chawla, Gopalaswami, who is to demit office on April 20, had in late January recommended the removal of the EC on a petition by the BJP which had accused him of "partisan" functioning. The BJP had alleged that Chawla was close to the Congress.
The CEC's recommendation sparked a furore with BJP demanding Chawla's resignation but the Congress came out in defence of the EC saying he need not step down. Adopting a combative approach in the face of the CEC recommendation, Chawla, the senior-most EC who was considered as the natural choice for the top post when Gopalaswami demits office in April, had dug in and said he was looking forward to conducting the general elections.
Within days Law Minister H R Bhardwaj too ticked off the Chief Election Commissioner for seeking removal of his colleague saying he is not the "political boss" and hinted at Chawla becoming the next CEC in April. Bhardwaj said the government had a policy to have the senior most Election Commissioner as the CEC and "our policy continues to be the same."
Describing the controversy as "unfortunate", Bhardwaj had said it should not effect Chawla's career as appointments in the Election Commission are based on merit. "We will begin the process to put in place a new CEC well in time" so that the name of Gopalaswami's successor is clear before he retires, Bhardwaj said.
The controversy had only brought to fore the differences among the three-member body which has often been marred by clashes over crucial decisions. Only last year, Chawla had raised serious objections to the holding of the Karnataka assembly elections in May but was over ruled.