After RBI, CBI, SC, CVC now it is Election Commission

NEW DELHI: One after another institution’s autonomy has been destroyed. Latest is the Election Commission.

Differences in the Election Commission have burst out in the open with Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa keeping away from the meetings related to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) of the full Commission over his dissent on crucial decisions not being recorded.

Election Commissioner Lavasa is learnt to have written a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora stating that he is forced to stay away from the meetings of the Full Commission since “minority decisions” were not being recorded.

He has recused himself from all meetings on MCC issues from the first week of this month.

Lavasa, in his letter, insisted that he would attend the meetings if his minority decisions were also included in the orders of the Commission.

Sources said that Lavasa has expressed his dissent on clean chit to four speeches of PM Modi and one speech of Amit Shah.

But Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora sought to downplay the controversy saying all the Commissioners are “not expected to be template or clones of each other”.

Arora, virtually hit back at Lavasa, saying “ill-timed” controversies should be avoided.

Lavasa, who had dissented on the series of clean chits given by the Commission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on their speeches during the election campaign, has written a letter to Arora even hinting at “taking recourse to other measures” for restoring the “lawful” functioning of the Commission in terms of recording minority decisions.

“I am being forced to stay away from the meetings of the full Commission since minority decisions are not being recorded. My participation in the deliberations of the Commission becomes meaningless since my minority decisions go unrecorded,” he said.

Lavasa said he might consider taking recourse to other measures aimed at restoring the lawful functioning of the Commission in terms of recording minority decisions.

“My various notes on the need for transparency in the recording and disclosure of all decisions including the minority view have gone unheeded, forcing me to withdraw from participating in the deliberations of the complaints,” he said in the letter to Arora.

The office of the CEC on Saturday released a statement of Arora which said there has been an “unsavoury and avoidable” controversy reported in the media today about the internal functioning of the Commission in respect of the handling Mode Code of Conduct.

This, he said, has come at a time when all the Chief Electoral Officers throughout the country and their teams were geared for the seventh and last phase of polling on Sunday. All of them and the senior officers of the EC headquarters have been working their utmost during the last six phases of elections which barring an odd incident here and there have been largely peaceful and conducted in a fair, free and transparent manner.

“The three members of ECI are not expected to be template or clones of each other. There have been so many times in the past when there has been a vast diversion of views as it can and should be. But the same largely remained within the confines of ECI after demission of office unless appearing much later in a book written by the concerned ECs?CECs.

“I said few days back in another leading daily that eloquence of silence is always difficult but far more desirable which is to see the election process through instead of creating ill-timed controversies.”

Arora said it needs to be mentioned in the last meeting of the Commission on May 14, it was unanimously decided that some groups shall be formed to deliberate the issues, which arose in the course of conduct of Lok Sabha elections just as it was done after the elections in 2014.

Out of the 13 issues and areas which were identified, Model Code of Conduct is one of them, Arora said.

Lavasa had opposed and dissented on the clean chits given by the Commission to Modi and Shah over the alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct by them during their campaign. The Congress and CPI(M) had complained against Modi’s speeches invoking the armed forces in the context of the Balakot aerial strikes and on issues relating to minorities.

This was his sixth speech to be cleared by the poll body. The EC also found nothing wrong in Modi’s speech in Nanded, Maharashtra, in which he reportedly referred to the Congress as a “sinking Titanic”.

Earlier, the poll body cleared Modi’s April 1 speech in Wardha, where he attacked Congress President Rahul Gandhi for selectively contesting from a minority-dominated seat in Kerala.

The EC also cleared him for his April 9 appeal to first-time voters in Latur to dedicate their first vote to “the Pulwama martyrs”.

With agencies inputs