Dilip Cherian | Why is govt not filling vacancy of 3rd EC member as polls get near?

India still doesn’t have a chief of defence staff (CDS) after the tragic death of Gen. Bipin Rawat in December last year, and many have given up expecting an announcement anytime soon. Meanwhile, an election commissioner post has been vacant for the past four months after the retirement of Sushil Chandra in May earlier this year. The poll panel has been a two-member body since with Rajiv Kumar as CEC and Anup Chandra Pandey as the other EC.

Unlike the CDS post, a delay in appointing a new election commissioner is not unprecedented. The last time the Nirvachan Sadan functioned below its strength was in 2015 when a two-member EC conducted the Delhi Assembly elections.

However, observers say that any further delay could lead the EC vulnerable to a deadlock, especially when two state Assembly elections are imminent. If the two commissioners are unanimous, the third becomes irrelevant. But when the serving two disagree, the third EC’s view becomes important.

Polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat are due before January and February, respectively, and are likely to be clubbed. In fact, CEC Kumar and EC Pandey have visited the two states recently to assess the readiness of their poll machinery for the elections. The Modi Sarkar is maintaining a stiff silence on its intentions on the matter.

UPSC frowns on DGP’s appointment in Uttar Pradesh

The IAS officers in Uttar Pradesh are increasingly restive. In less than a month, at least five senior IAS officers in the state have sought voluntary retirement from the service. That’s perhaps indicative of the current relationship between the BJP government and the civil service, in which the babus often find themselves at loggerheads with the netas over many government decisions.

Now it appears that there is trouble brewing over the UP government’s proposal for the appointment of a new director general of police (DGP). The Yogi Adityanath government had removed Mukul Goel from the post in May and named D.S. Chauhan as acting DGP. Sources have informed DKB that the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has reverted UP’s proposal and instead demanded an explanation for why Mr Goel was removed before the completion of his two-year term. The Supreme Court had directed in its 2006 order in the police reforms case that DGPs be appointed for a fixed tenure of two years.

UPSC had questioned the appointment of Mr Chauhan and directed the state government to submit the names of all IPS officers who were considered for appointment as DGP. Apparently, it was sent 42 names, including IPS officers of the 1992 batch, and contained the names of acting DGP Chauhan as well as Mr Goel.

But, sources say, the government is unwilling to retract on the issue and is planning to send a fresh proposal to the UPSC since Mr Chauhan is retiring in March next year. Watch this space for updates.

Adjustments and new alignments in babu reshuffles

Within less than a fortnight, the Modi Sarkar has carried through two large reshuffles of the upper babudom. Yet, the secretary-level reshuffle seems to be more of minor tweaks and adjustments since it ignores key positions such as the department of defence production, coal, corporate affairs, new and renewable energy, textiles, and food and public distribution, among others. Perhaps, this is a prelude to more changes in the coming days. But it does fill the vacancies that will come up at the commerce department and ministry of mines. Also, it was interesting to note that two officers have been brought in straight from the cadre while the rest were already serving at the Centre.

Still, there are many interesting aspects to the changes that may merit a closer look. The appointment of Sunil Barthwal as OSD, department of commerce, created a buzz as he will succeed B.V.R. Subrahmanyam and will have a three-year term at the department. But Mr Subrahmanyam is a big winner, who has been elevated to higher things. He is the new CMD of the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), a move made with an eye on the G20 summit being held in India in September next year. Clearly, the government has high faith in him to deliver a successful summit.

Observers also noted that the government focused on officers from the 1987-1990 batches during this exercise. The 1991 batch babus will have to await the next reshuffle, which some believe could also be coming soon.

Also, the Centre effected a minor reshuffle of additional secretary-level posts. Notable was the appointment of L. Satya Srinivas as additional secretary, department of commerce, Ms V. Radha as additional secretary at the Niti Aayog and Ms Ranjana Chopra as financial adviser, ministry of culture.

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