NEW DELHI: Strange as it may sound but election commissioner Navin Chawla was in favour of issuing notice to Sonia Gandhi on her `Maut ke Saudagar'
speech but did not want the outside world to know it.
In fact, the entire event is part of the CEC's letter of recommendation seeking Chawla's removal. It is believed the CEC and the two election commissioners were in favour of issuing notice to Sonia. After the decision, an 'outsider' called the CEC asking if there was a difference of opinion. When CEC denied it, the caller quoted Chawla as having told a senior media personality that he (Chawla) was not in favour of the notice but the CEC and S Y Quraishi's views to the contrary prevailed.
Next morning, news reports even said that. Chawla was confronted by the CEC about the source of the wrong leak. When the CEC accused Chawla of leaking it, the latter asked him to name his source. The CEC said he would tell Chawla on April 20, 2009, the day he retires.
This is what N Gopalaswami has pointed out in his January 16 recommendation to the President while seeking Chawla's removal.
The recommendation, running into over 90 pages, details other instances to back Gopalaswami's case that Chawla was not fit for the constitutional office.
Gopalaswami also refers to an instance during the 2005 Bihar assembly polls where Congress and RJD boycotted the voting in three polling stations of Bhagalpur assembly segment on the ground that K J Rao, then an advisor to the EC, had called them Pakistanis. Congress and RJD demanded repoll.
An investigation by viewing the CD of Rao's visit and district magistrate's report proved that Rao was innocent. But Chawla said even if Rao is innocent, there should be a repoll. With CEC and Quraishi on the other side, Chawla wanted to write a dissent note. Curiously, he wanted this, just like his file notings on issuing notice to Sonia, to be kept confidential.
A major part of the CEC's complaint relates to the manner in which Chawla is believed to have leaked information to outsiders â€” in most cases Congress leaders. The fact that Gujarat would have a three-phase poll was known only to the CEC and the two election commissioners. But when a Congress leader called the CEC requesting him for two-phase poll and even promised 150 more battalions of central forces which was followed by a call from the home secretary, Gopalaswami confronted Chawla. But he flatly denied having leaked it.
Gopalaswami has also alleged that in Sonia's Leopold honour case, every time the file went to Chawla, there was outside intervention. When the file went to Chawla first, principal secretary to PM, T K A Nair, came to meet the CEC.
The second time a file went to Chawla, a letter from Abhishek Singhvi arrived in EC about the notice to Congress president that was yet to be decided. Chawla wanted the EC to take cognisance of that letter since Singhvi could not have written it without Sonia's permission. Chawla went to the extent of saying, "I understand Congress culture."