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India’s election commissioner quits weeks before general elections

Simon Calder’s Travel

India’s second-highest election commission official abruptly resigned on Saturday just weeks ahead of nationwide polls to elect the next prime minister in a shocking decision that has drawn flak from opposition parties.

Election commissioner Arun Goel’s resignation leaves the three-member constitutional body, which already had a vacant position, with just one active member to oversee elections in the country with over 960 million registered voters.

Mr Goel’s resignation was accepted by Indian president Droupadi Murmu, a Ministry of Law and Justice gazette notification said, without delving into the reason for his departure.

His resignation came within a month of election commissioner Anup Pandey’s retirement, leaving the three-member body with only chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar.

India’s leading opposition party Congress expressed “deep concern” over Mr Goel’s resignation and other opposition members called on the Narendra Modi-led BJP government to come out with a “reasonable explanation”.

The dates for the 2024 parliamentary election were anticipated to be announced next week, but with the election commissioner’s resignation, there’s doubt cast on its timeline.

“India now has only one Election Commissioner, even as Lok Sabha elections are to be announced in few days. Why? As I have said earlier, if we do not stop the systematic decimation of our independent institutions, our democracy shall be usurped by dictatorship!,” Congress Chief Mallikajun Kharge posted on X.

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It is not immediately clear when new commissioners could be appointed in time for the election slated for this year.

Appointing election commissioners involves a search committee that is led by the law minister and includes two union secretaries, who shortlist five names.

A committee led by the prime minister, and including a union minister nominated by the PM, the parliament leader of the opposition, or the leader of the single-largest opposition party then selects the final candidate who is then finally appointed by the president.

Mr Kharge alleged that the election commission would be “among the last Constitutional institutions to fall”.

“Since the new process of selecting the Election Commissioners have now effectively given all the power to the ruling party and the PM, why has the new…

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