Differences in the Election Commission have burst out in the open with Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa boycotting the meetings of the full Commission over his dissent on crucial decisions not being recorded but Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora sought to downplay the controversy saying all the Commissioners are "not expected to be template or clones of each other".
Arora, virtually hit back at Lavasa, saying "ill-timed" controversies should be avoided and has called a meeting of the full Commission on May 21 to discuss and thrash out issues.
Lavasa, who had dissented on the series of clean chits given by the Commission to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on their speeches during the election campaign, has written a letter to Arora on May 16 even hinting at "taking recourse to other measures" for restoring the "lawful" functioning of the Commission in terms of recording minority decisions.
"I am being forced to stay away from the meetings of the full Commission since minority decisions are not being recorded. My participation in the deliberations of the Commission becomes meaningless since my minority decisions go unrecorded," he said.
Lavasa said he might consider taking recourse to other measures aimed at restoring the lawful functioning of the Commission in terms of recording minority decisions.
"My various notes on the need for transparency in the recording and disclosure of all decisions including the minority view have gone unheeded, forcing me to withdraw from participating in the deliberations of the complaints," he said in the letter to Arora.
The office of the CEC on Saturday released a statement of Arora which said there has been an "unsavoury and avoidable" controversy reported in the media today about the internal functioning of the Commission in respect of the handling Mode Code of Conduct.
This, he said, has come at a time when all the Chief Electoral Officers throughout the country and their teams were geared for the seventh and last phase of polling on Sunday. All of them and the senior officers of the EC headquarters have been working their utmost during the last six phases of elections which barring an odd incident here and there have been largely peaceful and conducted in a fair, free and transparent manner.
"The three members of ECI are not expected to be template or clones of each other. There have been so many times in the past when there has been a vast diversion of views as it can and should be. But the same largely remained within the confines of ECIafter demission of office unless appearing much later in a book written by the concerned ECs?CECs.
"I said few days back in another leading daily that eloquence of silence is always difficult but far more desirable which is to see the election process through instead of creating ill-timed controversies."
Arora said it needs to be mentioned in the last meeting of the Commission on May 14, it was unanimously decided that some groups shall be formed to deliberate the issues, which arose in the course of conduct of Lok Sabha elections just as it was done after the elections in 2014.Out of the 13 issues and areas which were identified, Model Code of Conduct is one of them, Arora said.
Lavasa had opposed and dissented on the clean chits given by the Commission to Modi and Shah over the alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct by them during their campaign. The Congress and CPI(M) had complained against Modi's speeches invoking the armed forces in the context of the Balakot aerial strikes and on issues relating to minorities.
EC souces said it needs to be clarified categorically and unambiguously that this was purely an internal matter of the Election Commission and as such any speculation, innuendoes and insinuations in this regard should be eschewed.
Reacting to the developments in the Commission, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said theComission has become a puppet in the hands of the government the "erosion of institutional integrity" was the "hallmark" of the Modi government.
"Election Commission or Election Omission. Another Dark Day for Democracy. Sh Ashok Lavasa, Member of EC, who dissented on multiple occasions when EC was busy giving clean chits to Modi-Shah duo, opts out of EC as the ECI even refuse to record dissent notes," he said.
"Erosion of institutional integrity iks the hallmark of Modi govt. SC judges going public, RBI Guv's resigning, CBI Director getting removed, CVC giving various reports, Now Dividing Election Commission! Will EC save the embarrassment by recording Sh Lavasa's dissent notes?", Surjewala asked.
He said the Election Commission was working at Modi's behest. Lavasa's letter makes it clear that CEC was not even ready to record the difference of opinion of Lavasa regarding Modi and Sha, he said.