Election Commissioner Arun Goel Sudden Resignation Raises Concerns Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha

Election Commissioner Arun Goel tendered his resignation on Saturday, just days before the expected announcement of the schedule for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. President Droupadi Murmu promptly accepted Mr. Goel’s resignation, effective immediately, as per a notification from the law ministry.

Sources familiar with the matter informed NDTV that Mr. Goel cited “personal reasons” for his resignation, despite government attempts to persuade him otherwise. Speculation regarding health issues was swiftly dispelled by senior officials affirming Mr. Goel’s well-being. However, sources within the Election Commission revealed underlying differences between Mr. Goel and Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar.

With Mr. Goel’s departure, the Election Commission of India, originally composed of three members, now only retains Mr. Kumar on the panel.

A seasoned bureaucrat, Mr. Goel, a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Punjab cadre, assumed his role in the Election Commission in November 2022.

Reports suggest that the announcement of Lok Sabha election dates is imminent, but Mr. Goel’s unexpected exit has raised doubts about the previously anticipated timeline.

What Follows Next
The process of appointing a new Chief Election Commissioner involves a search committee, chaired by the law minister and comprising two union secretaries, which shortlists five candidates. Subsequently, a selection committee led by the Prime Minister, along with a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the single-largest opposition party, finalizes the candidate. The President then formally appoints the selected Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner.

A notable precursor to Mr. Goel’s resignation was the enactment of a new law late last year, amending the procedure for appointing the country’s top election officials. Under the revised process, the Chief Justice of India was excluded from the selection process.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge voiced concerns over Mr. Goel’s sudden departure, questioning the ramifications and hinting at the need to rename the Election Commission as “Election OMISSION.” He underscored the importance of safeguarding independent institutions to prevent democratic erosion.

Congress general secretary organization KC Venugopal echoed these concerns, highlighting the significance of Mr. Goel’s resignation amidst the impending Lok Sabha elections. He expressed apprehension about government influence on constitutional bodies, citing past instances such as Ashok Lavasa’s dissent during the 2019 elections.

Trinamool Congress leader Saket Gokhale raised alarm over the need to fill two vacancies on the poll panel ahead of the general elections, emphasizing the sudden nature of Mr. Goel’s resignation and the vacant position of the other Election Commissioner.

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