| Krishnamurthy: No worries
New Delhi, Jan. 19: T.S. Krishnamurthy will assume office as chief of the three-member Election Commission after J.M. Lyngdoh, the current head of the constitutional body, retires on February 7.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who was away in Hyderabad, gave his consent, clearing the way for the 63-year-old former revenue service officer.
“The President is pleased to appoint T.S. Krishnamurthy, election commissioner, as the CEC in the Election Commission of India. Krishnamurthy will assume the charge of the post of CEC with effect from Feb. 8, 2004…” an official communiqué said.
Official sources said deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani spoke to Krishnamurthy earlier in the day to convey the government’s decision to appoint him.
Krishnamurthy, who was in Chennai, said he was happy and had “never anything to worry about it (the appointment)”.
Krishnamurthy, who joined the commission on January 30, 2000, will retire in May next year when he completes 65 years. According to the commission’s rules, an election commissioner or the chief of the commission retires after five years in office or on attaining the age of 65, “whichever is earlier”.
The government, which was earlier toying with the idea of bringing in Finance Commission member T.R. Prasad as poll panel chief, was forced to settle for the commission’s senior-most person following protests within and outside the body.
There was speculation that Krishnamurthy and B.B. Tandon, the other member of the commission, would quit if the government subverted the accepted norm of appointing the senior-most person. Parties like the Congress also blasted the government for thinking of appointing an outsider to such a crucial post.
The government will also have to appoint a third member. One of the names doing the rounds is that of Deepak Chatterjee, former secretary in the commerce ministry.
Krishnamurthy will have a tough job on his hands as he takes over at a critical time with parliamentary elections round the corner. The government was particularly keen to have a pliable person as head of the poll panel after a series of tiffs with Lyngdoh, who, despite pressure, refused to hold early polls in Gujarat and bring forward the general elections.
Krishnamurthy’s first challenge will be to decide when to hold the polls. The BJP wants elections to be held as soon as possible so that a new government can take charge by April. But the commission feels polls can only be held between April 25 and May 10, not before that. The revision of electoral rolls will be complete by March 30.
“The government will try to rush. Let’s see how Krishnamurthy handles it,” said an insider.
Asked about the dates for the Lok Sabha polls, Krishnamurthy said he could not hazard a guess as the commission was a “collective body” and decisions had to be taken in consultation with the other members.