(G.N.S) Dt. 22
Election Commission’s order disqualifying 20 MLAs of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could not have at a better time for Om Prakash Rawat who takes over as chief election commissioner (CEC) from AK Joti tomorrow. As election commissioner, Rawat had recused himself from the controversial case last year following allegations heaped on him by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Arvind Kejriwal has been making wild allegations on his rival politicians and even persons holding senior constitutional posts. He had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “a coward and a psychopath” and expressed apprehension that the latter would get him killed.
In the same vein, Arvind Kejriwal in April 2017 accused Om Prakash Rawat of being biased. While the Election Commission (EC) was hearing the disqualification of 21 AAP MLAs, the Delhi CM doubted the integrity of both Joti and Rawat.
Both Joti and Rawat were election commissioners when Kejriwal had levelled allegations against them. According to the Delhi CM, both Joti and Rawat could not be trusted because the former was chief secretary of Gujarat when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state’s chief minister while the latter was very close to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The polite, humble and low-profile Om Prakash Rawat is a 1977-batch IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre.
While Joti, who went on to become the CEC on July 6, 2017, did not recuse himself from AAP cases, Rawat immediately stopped hearing all cases pertaining to the party ruling Delhi. One of the cases consisted of the disqualification of 21 AAP MLAs for allegedly holding offices of profit.
Rawat’s action was perhaps an unprecedented one by any election commissioner.
Just as Joti, Rawat too was not obliged to recuse himself from AAP’s cases. But he did because the Election Commission is a quasi-judicial Constitutional body which announces orders in cases.
That Joti was Modi’s chief secretary was a fact. Kejriwal was right at that point. But his allegation that Rawat was very close to shivraj Singh Chouhan’s could not have been farther from truth.
Hence, even on this count, Om Prakash Rawat was not bound to recuse himself.
Rawat, who retired from service in December 2013, was never close to Shivraj Singh Chouhan. On the contrary, Chouhan was not favourably disposed towards him.
As an MP cadre senior IAS officer, Rawat had the inkling that Chouhan would not allow him to become chief secretary of the state. Therefore, he applied for empanelment at the Centre.
Rawat even got an opportunity to come on deputation to the national capital. However, Chouhan stopped him from leaving MP saying “I have some plans for you”.
Rawat stayed back thinking the Madhya Pradesh CM had change of heart and would promote him to the coveted post. But in 2012, when Rawat was supposed to be made the MP chief secretary, he was superseded by his junior R Parshuram for the post.
Peeved over the development, Rawat came down to the capital. Here he served as secretary at Department of Public Enterprises in the Ministry of Heavy Industries from April, 2012 till December 31, 2013 when he retired. He took over as election commissioner on August 14, 2015.
Arvind Kejriwal had sought to damage Om Prakash Rawat’s image even though the latter was never close to Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He was surely principal secretary to the former MP chief minister Babulal Gaur who was Chouhan’s predecessor.
As far as Gaur is concerned, he was a minister in Chouhan’s cabinet. Chouhan dropped Gaur from his cabinet in June 2016. He remains just an MLA now and hardly has any influence at the Centre, as alleged by Kejriwal.
By levelling a wild and baseless allegation to serve his political purpose, Kejriwal may have tried to erode the credibility of a senior and upright officer like Om Prakash Rawat who could not defend himself in public.
He could do just one thing to protect his dignity – recuse himself from AAP cases – to uphold the settled principle that justice should not just be done, but should also be seen as being done.