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Did Arun Goel resign as EC due to differences with CEC or Modi govt, ask Oppn parties

New Delhi, Mar 10 (PTI) A day after Arun Goel resigned as election commissioner, the Congress and other opposition parties on Sunday asked whether he did so due to any differences with the chief election commissioner or the Narendra Modi government.

New Delhi, Mar 10 (PTI) A day after Arun Goel resigned as election commissioner, the Congress and other opposition parties on Sunday asked whether he did so due to any differences with the chief election commissioner or the Narendra Modi government.

Taking potshots at the BJP, some opposition leaders also wondered if Goel resigned to contest the Lok Sabha polls on its ticket like former Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay.

'The resignation of Arun Goel as Election Commissioner last evening raises three questions,' Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said.

'Did he actually resign over differences with the Chief Election Commissioner or with the Modi Government, which does the front-seat driving for all supposedly independent institutions? Or did he resign for personal reasons? 'Or did he, like the Calcutta High Court Judge a few days back, resign to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls on a BJP ticket,' Ramesh said in a post on X.

The Congress leader said the Election Commission has for eight months now refused to meet with INDIA parties on the issue of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) that is essential to prevent 'electronic voting manipulation'.

'Each passing day in Modi's India deals an added blow to democracy and democratic institutions,' he alleged.

Asked about Goel's resignation, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said one has to wait to see what he does in the coming days.

'I was thinking that after the high court judge resigned and joined the BJP the next day and started abusing the TMC. It shows that the BJP has appointed people with such a mindset.

'Now the election commissioner has resigned, let us wait for some time to see what he does,' he said.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut alleged the Election Commission has become an 'extended branch of the BJP'.

It is not the same Election Commission that it was during TN Seshan's time, which functioned as a watchdog over the elections and remained impartial, he claimed.

'In the last 10 years, the Election Commission has been privatised. It has become a branch of the BJP,' he alleged.

He said two people have gone and only one remains in the Election Commission.

'Like BJP's people have been appointed in high courts, Supreme Court, Governor's house, in the same manner, they would appoint two of their BJP people here too,' Raut claimed.

Ramesh said, 'It is possible that Arun Goel resigned to contest elections on a BJP ticket'.

AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi demanded answers from Goel and the government over the resignation just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

'It would be better if he (Arun Goel) himself or the government would tell the reason behind the resignation ahead of the Lok Sabha elections,' he said.

TMC leader Saket Gokhale asked, 'Why did Election Commissioner Arun Goel abruptly resign last night just after cutting short his trip to Bengal with the ECI.' 'What explains this sudden mystery days before the elections? This is a part of the 'chronology' of Modi's & BJP's dirty tricks to steal votes in Bengal,' he alleged.

The 'anti-Bengal outsider zamindars of the BJP are rattled' because Bengal has constantly rejected them, he claimed.

He said, 'In the face of a certain defeat, they've tried everything including depriving Bengal of its rightful financial dues, sending 100s of companies of central forces to Bengal before the elections and influencing a sitting HC judge who resigned'.

Gokhale alleged that the BJP 'forced' Goel to 'abruptly resign so that Modi and his one chosen minister get to appoint two out of three Election Commissioners days before Lok Sabha polls are announced'.

Independent MP Kapil Sibal said it was a worrying development.

'Way cleared to: Pack the Commission with Yes men. This applies to all institutions that are the foundations of our Republic!' he said on X.

'To abruptly resign like this at the cusp of the Lok Sabha elections is something we should be worried about, because normally this would not happen. Maybe the reasons cited by him that he has resigned for personal reasons are genuine. But, it is unlikely...,' Sibal said.

'There is also a possibility that there was some element of disagreement between him and the chief election commissioner in the context of elections in West Bengal. I do not know the real reason, but that is speculation.

He alleged institutions in this country, including the Election Commission which is constitutionally obliged to ensure a free and fair elections, are being 'slowly decimated'.

'And, it has been decimated over the years and in the last ten years they have captured almost all institutions in this country,' the former union minister said, adding that the Election Commission is also one such victim.

'In the last 10 years, it looks like the Election Commission has become an extended arm of the government,' he also said.

TMC MP Sagarika Ghose said, 'Now on the eve of elections, an election commissioner - Arun Goel - has actually resigned. What message does this send about the world's largest democracy?'.

Goel resigned on Saturday, days before the expected announcement of the schedule for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

His tenure was till December 5, 2027, and he would have become Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) after the retirement of incumbent Rajiv Kumar in February next year.

According to a Law Ministry notification, Goel's resignation has been accepted by President Droupadi Murmu with effect from Saturday. It was not immediately known why he stepped down.

Goel was a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Punjab cadre. He joined the Election Commission in November 2022.

Following the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey in February and Goel's resignation, the three-member EC now has only one member - CEC Rajiv Kumar. PTI SKC RT RT RT

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