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N Gopalaswami takes over as new CEC

Press Trust of India

Posted: Jun 30, 2006 at 1305 hrs IST

N Gopalaswami on Friday took over as new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) claiming that the credibility of the Commission has gone up after the Assembly elections in Bihar and the recent polls in five states.

"I thought otherwise. The credibility of the Commission has gone up after the Bihar Assembly elections and the polls in five states," he told reporters after assuming charge at a time, when the Commission has come under attack from the Left parties on its handling of the office of profit controversy.

Replying to a question on the controversy shrouding election commissioner Navin Chawla, Gopalawami said, "Today he is part of the Commission. He is a member of the Commission ...The matter is pending before the court".

A questioner asked whether the credibility of the EC was affected because of the "faulty" procedure in the appointment of commissioners, he said "I do not think the credibility of the Commission as such is questioned. The credibility about the appointment of a particular person would have been questioned". Giving an assurance that he would strive to live up to the expectations of the voters and other stake-holders, who value the poll body as a neutral umpire, 62-year-old Gopalaswami said that attack on the Commission is a "privilege" of the political parties.

A gold medallist post-graduate in chemistry from Delhi university, the 1966-batch Gujarat cadre IAS officer, would have a stint of nearly three years at the helm of the three-member Commission. His term would end in April 2009.

He would conduct the next presidential and vice presidential elections and the crucial Assembly polls to some states including Uttar Pradesh next year. In case general elections are held on schedule in 2009, he would retire just when the poll process would begin.

Prior to becoming an Election Commissioner in 2004, he had worked as Union A. Besides serving in Gujarat in various capacities, Gopalaswami had worked as Culture Secretary, Secretary General in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and various central departments.

S Y Quraishi, a 1971 batch IAS officer, also took over as an Election Commissioner.

Asked whether the right to recall of elected lawmakers should form part of the electoral reform, he said that it was a "little difficult exercise and difficult operation" in the country.

He said that the Commission had already suggested that an option of "none of the above option" could be choice to the voters to select on the candidates.

To a question on the office of profit issue, Gopalaswami said that his predecessor B B Tandon had already made the Commission's stand clear.

Gopalaswami, who was pursuing an astrology course, smiled away a question whether he could predict the future of the country. "I have not seen India fully. How can I predict?"

"Not yet, I think I will pass," he said whether the results of the astrology examination have come and he would pass it.

The CEC said that his priority was to update the voters list and as far as possible cover photo electoral list by Lok Sabha polls in 2009.

On the electoral reforms, Gopalaswami said that the ceiling on spending by political parties should be fixed.

He also agreed with his predecessors suggestion for creation of a mechanism for selection of CEC and other ECs on a more transparent manner.

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