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'EC does not need more members'

June 29, 2006 18:42 IST

B B Tandon, who demitted his office as Chief Election Commissioner on Thursday evening, said that there was no need to have more members on the commission as was being suggested in media reports. He was addressing his last press conference as the head of the Election Commission in New Delhi.

"I think a three-member Election Commission is ideal and there is no need to add more members," he said. He ruled out the possibility of joining politics as has been done by Dr M S Gill, who became member of the Rajya Sabha after he retired as CEC. "I have no intention to join politics," he said.

Tandon served for 37 years as a civil servant and five years in the EC.

"My stint as Chief Election Commissioner was full of challenges and it was fulfilling and very satisfying," he said in response to a question how he would sum up his tenure. He chose to ignore the repeated attacks on him by the Left parties which had accused him of biased towards them during the assembly elections in five states including West Bengal in recent months.

He singled out the role of the non-governmental organizations and the media for special appreciation. "Some NGO's acted as election watch groups during the assembly elections in Gujarat and since then they have continued to do the job in other states. The media has been of help to us as it could reach where our own observers could not. It was able to create a strong public opinion and act as a deterrent for the political parties," he said.

He refused to answer questions relating to his colleague Navin Chawla on the plea that the matter was now pending before the Supreme Court. "The President did not ask me for my opinion," he added when specifically asked if President Kalam had referred application of MP's and MLA's against Navin Chawla.

Tandon said that there was nothing wrong in bringing in legislation to keep some of the offices out of the preview of office of profit. "It is there in the Constitution that such amendments could be brought in," he said.

He ruled out that the EC had done Sonia Gandhi a favour by announcing dates to the by-election to Rai Bareli early while it did not do the same in case of Jaya Bachchan. "The Supreme Court has upheld our decision in the Jaya Bachchan case. We have based our opinion on a series of judgements of the Supreme Court. The commission declared the petitions against Sonia Gandhi and many others as infractuous on the basis of series of judgements of the apex court," he said.

Tandon, who fielded several questions, kept his cool throughout the 40 minute interaction with the media. "We have sent a series of recommendations for the smooth running of the Election Commission which has been impartial and has kept its integrity above board. The government had appointed a Central Administrative Commission which has also come out with recommendations on the same lines as our suggestions. The commission takes pride for doing an honest, impartial job of conducting elections in Bihar, Bengal and Assam. In Assam the elections were most peaceful," he claimed.

Replying to a question on allegations made Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, he said, "I am not discussing any individual case. It is a judicial process and will take time," he said. But he defended his decision to ask for more information in Chatterjee's case on the grounds that it was the moral obligation of the commission to do so.

Onkar Singh in New Delhi