O P Rawat takes charge as new CEC

O P Rawat takes charge as new CEC

 New Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat courted controversy on his first day in office, as the Aam Aadmi Party criticised him for stating that it had not asked the commission to hold hearings in the office-of-profit case against its MLAs.

Rawat, who was an Election Commissioner since August 2015, took the top office at the Nirvachan Sadan in New Delhi on Tuesday. He succeeded A K Joti, who demitted office of chief election commissioner on Monday.

Talking about his priorities as the CEC, Rawat told journalists on Tuesday that the EC would continue to pursue vigorously its commitment and maintain its standard to hold free, fair, inclusive and credible elections throughout the country.

His tenure at the helm of the EC would end in December this year. During his tenure, the poll panel will hold Assembly elections in Karnataka, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Though Joti declared the schedule of the polls in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya before demitting office, Rawat will lead the EC in conducting elections in the three Northeastern states next month.

The new CEC, however, came under attack from the AAP after he defended the opinion the EC recently gave in the office-of-profit case against the 20 members of the state Legislative Assembly of Delhi.

Acting on the EC's opinion, President Ram Nath Kovind disqualified the 20 MLAs, prompting the AAP to up its ante against the poll panel.

 AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha on Tuesday contradicted the CEC's statement to a section of media that the party had never asked the EC to hold hearings in the case although it had been given opportunity at least twice to do so.

The AAP had earlier termed the EC's stand on the case against its MLAs "unconstitutional, illegal, malafide and motivated".

Chadha on Tuesday told media persons that the AAP had responded to both the notices issued to it by the EC, first on September 28, 2017, and then again on November 2, 2017, and had expressed its desire to present before the commission its side of the argument.

Rawat had in April 2017 recused himself from the cases related to the AAP.

Chadha on Tuesday, however, criticised Rawat for getting himself involved later and joining the then CEC and Election Comissioner Sunil Arora in giving its opinion in the case.

Born in December 1953, Rawat joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1977 and retired in 2013.

He served in various capacities both in the Madhya Pradesh government, as well as in the Union government, including as secretary in the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Department of Public Enterprises from April 2012 to December 2013.

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