Sushil Chandra has been appointed as the new Chief Election Commissioner of India. He will take charge on Tuesday and serve for a little under a year before retiring on May 14, 2022.
Mr Chandra, 63, who was appointed Election Commissioner in February 2019, weeks before the Lok Sabha election, replaces Sunil Arora as India’s top poll official. During his term in office he will oversee the conduct of polls in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur.
Before his two-year tenure as an Election Commissioner, Sushil Chandra was Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and, since his appointment, has worked on 10 state elections.
Mr Chandra ascends to the Election Commission’s top post at a time when it is being fiercely criticised for failing to apply the rules evenly – to both the ruling BJP and opposition parties.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee – handed a 48-hour ban this evening by the outgoing CEC – has accused the poll body of ignoring transgressions by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior BJP leaders as they campaign for the ongoing Assembly election in the state.
A defiant Ms Banerjee, who has rejected the Commission’s allegations that she sought votes on communal grounds, asked why complaints had not been filed against those who made polarising references to a “mini-Pakistan” while campaigning in the high-profile Nandigram constituency.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi last week unleashed a two-word tweet amid a dual controversy in the Assam election – over officials transporting an EVM in a BJP candidate’s car, and the last-minute halving of a ban on Assam minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma.
It was also forced to defend itself on Sunday after a tweet urging people to vote in the Bengal election was flagged for invoking the armed forces. The Commission said the rules in question were only applicable to political parties and their campaigns.
Sunil Arora, 64, the outgoing CEC, most notably oversaw the conduct of the 2019 Lok Sabha election and the Bihar Assembly election in October and November last year – which was the first major electoral exercise amid the coronavirus pandemic.
His final responsibilities included polls in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, and, in what could be one of his final acts in charge, handed Ms Banerjee a 48-hour ban.
With input from ANI