Gopalaswami bids adieu, Navin Chawla to assume charge

April 20th, 2009 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) It was the perfect photo-op. Outgoing Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N. Gopalaswami shook hand with his successor Navin Chawla and smiled for camerapersons, bidding adieu after a five-year tenure Monday. He wished Chawla “a very bright tenure”.
Flanked by Chawla and Election Commissioner S.Y.Quraishi, Gopalaswami told the assembled journalist: “I take leave of all of you and the commission.”

“At this time let me wish him (Chawla) a very bright tenure and successful completion of general election 2009 so that the commission stands up to its name,” said Gopalaswami, who retired Monday as the CEC, a position he assumed on June 30, 2006.

He hoped Chawla would be able to “make its (the commission’s) mark in the country’s electoral history”. Chawla assumes charge as the Chief Election Commissioner at 11.45 Tuesday morning.

Clutching a bouquet of flowers, a smiling Gopalaswami, however, did not interact with the media.

Faced with requests from photojournalists, the three commission members held aloft their hands together - a gesture to signify they were together - despite various controversies.

Gopalaswami’s tenure as the CEC has often been in the news for the bitter wrangling with Chawla, who takes over from him Tuesday right in the middle of the five-phase Election 2009. Chawla would be in charge of the top position till July 29, 2010.

Even on Sunday, Gopalaswami locked horns with Election Commissioners Chawla and S.Y. Quraishi over Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s civilian honour from the Belgian government. He wanted an Election Commission inquiry that could have disqualified her from contesting the present Lok Sabha polls but was in a minority of one.

He was snubbed on both counts. His recommendation to President Pratibha Patil to remove Chawla and his suggestion to his colleagues on Sonia Gandhi were rejected.

Gopalaswami had become a member of the Election Commission during the last months of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. At that time, he was union home secretary in the ministry headed by then deputy prime minister L. K. Advani.

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