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The Rediff Election Special/Onkar Singh in New Delhi

The Nitty-Gritty Man

February 16, 2004

'My personal view is that tax payers' money should not be used for electoral advantage. I would like to use this opportunity to tell the political parties, whether in power or in opposition. that the spirit of the code of conduct should be maintained.'

If anyone in India's ruling establishment thought India's new Chief Election Commissioner would be a pushover after James Michael Lyngdoh's harsh regime, T S (that is, Taruvai Subbayya) Krishna Murthy's comments on the Union government's Rs 50 crore Shining India publicity blitzkrieg just a day after he took over must have come as a rude shock.

If there were any doubts whether he would be as tough with the government as his recent predecessors Lyngdoh, Dr M S Gill and T N Seshan, they had been laid to rest.

None of his predecessors have had to organise a general election weeks after taking charge as Krishna Murthy has to.
Lyngdoh believes Krishna Murthy is just the right man for the job.

"Krishna Murthy is a competent officer and knows what he is doing," Lyngdoh told on his last day in office.
He should know. He set some tough standards in the Election Commission. The almost flawless conduct of the assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2002 was appreciated nationally and internationally.

The assembly election in Gujarat was another tough assignment.

Krishna Murthy has the right credentials -- vast administrative experience and a spotless service record.

The officer of the Indian Revenue Service (1963 batch) was the first officer from his segment of the civil service to be appointed an election commissioner. He was secretary, Department of Company Affairs, before he was appinted to the Election Commission on January 30, 2000.

Election Commission officials say while Lyngdoh kept his eyes on the big picture, Krishna Murthy got involved with the nitty-gritty.

It was Krishna Murthy who worked virtually round-the-clock to prepare reports for the Commission.

It was he who would brief lawyers and scrutinise briefs for important cases involving the Commission.

A Bachelor of Law from the University of Madras, Krishna Murthy did his masters in fiscal studies from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.

He held a series of high-profile post in the bureaucracy -- chief commissioner of income tax,  Mumbai (1994-1995), resident tax advisor, International Monetary Fund, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (August 1996-January 1997) and secretary, Department of Company Affairs.

'Our immediate priority is to ensure that the electoral rolls are perfect. Effort would be to keep the poll expenditure down. We will] ensure that free and fair polls are held without violence,' he said soon after taking over as CEC.

Overseeing the biggest democratic exercise on the planet is an awesome challenge, but Krishna Murthy is confident that he and his fellow election commissioners -- B B Tandon and N Gopalaswamy -- will rise to the occasion.

Also Read: A revenue officer on election duty

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