The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tough talk on Tandon debut

New Delhi, May 16: The Election Commission today hit out at what it called “scurrilous” and “deliberate and calculated” attempts to damage its credibility.

B.B. Tandon, who took over as the 14th chief election commissioner and against whom allegations of bias were levelled by a senior bureaucrat, said the Election Commission would be undeterred by such charges.

Tandon, who took over from T.S. Krishnamurthy today, and election commissioner N. Gopalaswami were alleged to have made casteist remarks in a letter that senior bureaucrat L.V. Saptharishi sent to Union law minister H.R. Bhardwaj recently.

Saptharishi was a special observer for the election in Laloo Prasad Yadav’s constituency in Chhapra during last year’s Lok Sabha poll. The bureaucrat claimed he was moved to make the charges because Tandon was about to be elevated as chief election commissioner.

Krishnamurthy retired yesterday and former information and broadcasting secretary Navin Chawla joined the Election Commission as the third election commissioner.

Tandon, who became the chief election commissioner for being the seniormost commissioner, will stay in the post for a year before he retires at 65.

So long loath to go public on the allegations against him, Tandon today did not mince words.

Krishnamurthy earlier said the allegations against Tandon and Gopalaswami that they had ordered repolling in Chhapra to browbeat Laloo Prasad were unfounded.

Today, Tandon said “it was a deliberate and calculated attempt to denigrate and undermine the credibility and political neutrality” of the commission.

“The developments over the last one week have been most unfortunate. I have been greatly pained and hurt over these developments since May 7 in which wild and baseless allegations have been made against me and my esteemed colleague N. Gopalaswami,” he added.

The chief election commissioner said the poll panel is at the core of the democratic system and its role is acknowledged both within the country and overseas.

During his tenure as the chief election commissioner, Tandon is expected to oversee the conduct of Assembly elections in Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Tandon said the Election Commission had urged the government to respond to its 22-point proposal for electoral reforms submitted last year.

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