Om Prakash Rawat, 64, is likely to take charge as India’s 22nd Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) from his predecessor A K Jyoti on January 23. Rawat’s appointment follows the age-old tradition of appointing the senior-most election commissioner as CEC in the apex election watchdog in the country.
Rawat joined the EC on August 14, 2015 and he was the second-most senior election commissioner after Jyoti, who retired on Monday. Former bureaucrat Sunil Arora is the now second-most election commissioner and is likely to become CEC once Rawat retires in December this year.
The CECs are appointed for a fixed-term of six years or till they turn 65 years. Rawat would be turning 65 in December.
Rawat is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of 1977-batch Madhya Pradesh cadre, whereas Arora in 1980-batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre. Ashok Lavasa, who is also an IAS officer of 1980-batch Haryana cadre, has been appointed as third election commissioner in EC. The three collectively represents the Election Commission of India, but the CEC has the authority to overrule the decision of other two commissioners.
Like his predecessors, Rawat’s task has been cut out.
He would be supervising the assembly elections in several states including Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Rawat may oversee the poll-preparation for the next general elections if the Union government decides to advance them to second-half of this year from March 2019.
Rawat’s working in the EC would be closely monitored by his predecessors and civil society, which have accused the EC of being biased against the opposition parties in the recent past.
Rawat’s biggest task would be to supervise the disqualification case of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators in the Delhi High Court. Earlier, as per some media reports, Rawat had disassociated himself from the matter following Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal allegations that both Rawat and Jyoti were close to the ruling party. Last week, the EC had recommended disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs on grounds of holding an office of profit as parliamentary secretaries.
The grape wine has it that Rawat’s closeness to a senior cabinet minister from Madhya Pradesh had helped him move to EC.
Before named the election commissioner, Rawat worked secretary in the Union Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Department of Public Enterprises. He retired in Dec 2013.
Rawat holds a post-graduation degree in Physics from Banaras Hindu University and MSc. in Social Development Planning from the United Kingdom. He was Collector Narsinghpur (1983-86) and Indore (1986-88) in Madhya Pradesh. “He was deputed to South Africa in May, 1994 as United Nations election observer to oversee first post-apartheid elections in that country,” reads his profile on EC website.business-standard