By Prarthana Mitra
President Ramnath Kovind, on Tuesday, appointed retired IAS officer and bureaucrat Sunil Arora as the new Chief Election Commissioner of India, a year after he was first roped in by the poll regulator to replace a retiring election commissioner. The 62-year-old former civil servant will succeed the incumbent OP Rawat, who retired on Saturday, according to official sources close to the development.
Traditionally, the senior-most election commissioner is selected as the CEC, who then goes on to hold the position for 6 years provided they don’t turn 65 before the end of the term. Highly placed sources in the Law Ministry hinted on Monday that the centre had already cleared his name, but the formal notification did not come from the Rashtrapati Bhavan before next day.
First order of things
Set to assume office from December 2, Arora will take over the election convenor and watchdog, just days ahead of Assembly poll results on December 11. More importantly, he will oversee the contentious General Elections starting January 2019, campaigning for which has begun in full swing and which could end in a close call between the ruling BJP and whatever alliance the Congress manages to stitch up by then. The Lok Sabha polls have been historically notable for sporadic violence and ballot tampering, making this the top priority for the new CEC.
The remaining Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, scheduled for the next year, will also be held under Arora.
An IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre till 2016, Arora’s career as a bureaucrat since then has been eventful. First, he was made the director general and CEO of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs. Next, he held important portfolios in ministries like Information and Broadcast, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Finance and Textiles, as well as in the Planning Commission.
He had also served as a joint secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation during 1999-2002, as the CMD of Indian Airlines for five years after that, besides holding several key positions in the government of Rajasthan. Arora was also considered to be Vasundhara Raje’s most trusted aide, when he served as the principal secretary to the Chief Minister during her earlier term. Back in the state, he has also handled information and public relations (IPR), Industries and Investment Departments.
The Election Commission of India has received a lot of flak lately, over the rigged EVM and VVPAT machines having caused several electoral upsets in the last couple of years. Arora looks to bring his diligence, integrity and efficacy to the ECI which faces a challenging year ahead.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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