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Gopalaswami takes over as CEC

Last updated on: June 30, 2006 12:39 IST

N Gopalaswami on Friday took over as the Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission from B B Tandon.

The 62-year-old Gopalaswami, who joined the commission in February 2004, will be the CEC till April 2009.

"For my part I would assure one and all that I would strive to the best of my ability to continue the good work of the previous chief election commissioners and live up to the expectations of the voters and other stakeholders who value this institution as a neutral umpire," he mentioned in a written statement that he read out before answering a wide range of questions from the media who were present in good strength.

He refused to answer questions relating to the presence of Navin Chawla, election commissioner, saying that the matter was pending before the Supreme Court. "As of now he is a member of the commission," he said.

Dressed in blue striped suit with a long trademark red tilak on his forehead Gopalaswami walked in a little after 10 am on Friday morning to take over his new responsibilities.

He greeted everyone with folded hands before sitting in the hotseat that he will occupy till April 20, 2009, and lay down office after setting up things in motion for the next general elections.

"Astrology has nothing to do with my reaching office. I thought I had reached the office in time," he said with a smile when this correspondent asked him if he believed in choosing timings according to the position of the stars.

He explained in detail that he could not take over from B B Tandon as the former had retired a day before and his own appointment began on Friday.

"Tandon wanted to hand over the charge, but that was not possible," he said.

Talking about the right to recall, the new CEC of India said that it was too early to give this right to the voters.

"The commission has suggested to the government to add one more button with choice 'none of the above' while selecting the candidates. This could be the first step towards the right to recall," he said.

He agreed with the suggestion that candidates should have 50 per cent plus one vote to get elected, but there are times when candidates with just 15 per cent votes also get elected.

He did not agree with newsmen that the commission's image has taken a beating in recent months and its credibility has come under scanner.

"I thought the credibility of the commission, on the contrary, has gone up. As far as the Left parties are concerned, it is their privilege to have a go at the commission. The commission has proved that it is a truly independent, vibrant and highly respected institution," he said.

He said that the photo identity cards were taking time because every year the number of voters who attain the age of 18 and become eligible to vote has been going up.

Onkar Singh in New Delhi