Will push for electoral reforms, says Sampath

India's new Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath Monday said his priority would be to push for electoral reforms and check criminalisation of politics and money power in elections. 

Taking charge as the 18th chief of the poll panel, Sampath also said he did not favour giving statutory status to the model code of conduct.

"The reforms' proposals are at last-mile stage...We do hope that this will be carried forward. Whatever is in the realm of the commission, we will certainly do to expedite the implementation of electoral reforms," Sampath told reporters after taking charge from S.Y. Quraishi, who retired Monday.

He said the commission would work for the early implementation of electoral reforms which are key for putting an end to criminalisation of politics and undue influence of money power in electoral arena.

On giving statutory authority to the model code of conduct, Sampath said the present system is working "satisfactorily".

"Our view is, the present system is working satisfactorily, very well. We have been able to conduct reasonably efficient election management with the present dispensation," he said.

News reports recently suggested that the government wanted to give the model code of conduct statutory backing so that complaints relating to its violations could be tried in a court of law, rather than being left to the discretion of the poll panel.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid had also said the government would consult political parties whether they wanted to take the model code of conduct out of the commission's purview. 

At this, then chief election commissioner Quraishi had lashed out at Khurshid, saying it was an attempt to curb the commission's power.

Sampath said: "The view of the Election Commission has always been that model code is an effective instrument in the hands of Election Commission in election management." "Anything that anyone wants to do will be certainly part of a larger public debate," he added.

Sampath also tried to brush aside questions on a collegium-type appointment for the chief election commissioner. "... at this point of time, I would like to attend to the tasks at hand," he said. 

He also said they were preparing for assembly elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya, slated for later this year.

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