All smiles as Election Commission calls all-party meeting


New Delhi : In the midst of a flaming row between Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N. Gopalaswami and his colleague Navin Chawla, the three-member poll panel Tuesday began preparations for the Lok Sabha polls with an all-party meeting.

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Representatives of at least seven national parties and 40 regional parties attended a meeting in which issues connected with the Lok Sabha polls, scheduled for April-May, were discussed.

Both Gopalaswami and Chawla walked in together smiling and posed for cameras before getting down to business at the conference room.

Tuesday’s meeting is the first in a series before the general elections. On Wednesday, the Election Commission is expected to hold a review meeting with chief electoral officers of all the states and union territories. Issues related to electoral roll revision and the status of photo electoral roll will be taken up.

Later this week, the Election Commission will hold discussions with chief secretaries and director generals of police of all the states and union territories on law and order issues and the deployment of security forces for the elections.

An unseemly fracas has gripped India’s poll panel with Gopalaswami writing to President Pratibha Patil saying he found Chawla’s behaviour to be partisan and demanding his removal.

However, the government has come to Chawla’s defence with Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj Monday hitting out at Gopalaswami for suggesting the sacking of Chawla and saying that he would be the next head of the autonomous panel.

In an unusually hard-hitting attack on the CEC, Bhardwaj imputed political motives to Gopalaswami’s controversial move to ease out Chawla

Both Gopalaswami and Election Commissioner S.Y. Qurashi had earlier mentioned that the Lok Sabha elections would be conducted in April-May.