A common one liner joke about the elections in India is that we are always in the election mode or there is always an election in India. Unfortunately, this is not a joke coming out of nowhere. While there are voices rising for ‘one nation, one election’, it remains a far cry. One wonders, rather hopefully, whether Mr. Om Prakash Rawat, the new Chief Election Commissioner, given his impressive list of achievements, will have a role to play in making ‘one nation, one election’, a reality.
The Chief Election Commissioner helms the Election Commission which is responsible for conducting free and fair elections, establishing the model code of conduct, limiting the expenditure incurred on the elections, use of better technology for elections amongst a few other functions. Considering that implementing the policy of ‘one nation, one election would significantly reduce the cost of elections, which is a part of the role of Election Commission, pushing it forward should be on the new Chief Election Commissioner’s agenda.
Mr. Om Prakash Rawat is a retired IAS officer of 1977 Madhya Pradesh cadre and has been serving as the election commissioner from August 2015. He is a double Masters- once in Physics from Banaras Hindu University and then in Social Development Planning from United Kingdom.
Mr. Om Prakash Rawat has held many important positions with the government in Madhya Pradesh. He served as the District Magistrate and Collector of Narsinghpur from 1983 to 1986 and Indore from 1986 to 1988. Further, he held the post of Commissioner of Women and Child Development, Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Secretary of Cooperation, Secretary of Agriculture and State Excise Commissioner in Madhya Pradesh.
As the Principal Secretary of the SC-ST Welfare Department under the Government of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Om Prakash Rawat received the Prime Minister’s Award for excellence in Public Administration for innovative group initiative “Recognition of Forest Rights” in April 2010. He also held the position of the Additional Chief Secretary of the Narmada Valley Development Department and Vice-Chairman, Narmada Valley Development Authority. He has also served as a Principal Secretary to Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. With the Union government, he held the positions of the Secretary at the Department of Public Enterprises in the Ministry of Heavy Industries and the Joint Secretary in Ministry of Defense. In his positions outside the country, noteworthy is his appointment as the United Nations election observer in South Africa to oversee the first post-apartheid elections.
As an election commissioner Mr. Om Prakash Rawat monitored general assembly elections in fourteen Indian states including Bihar, West Bengal and Kerala.
Unlike his predecessor, Achal Kumar Jyoti, who received flak for issuing notice to Rahul Gandhi during the Gujarat election and was accused of having ‘BJP connection’ because of the mere fact that he served as the Chief Secretary to Narendra Modi during the latter’s tenure as the Chief Minister, Mr. Om Prakash Rawat seems to have no such ‘BJP connection’. Although he served as the Principal Secretary to former CM Babulal Gaur, there seems to be no apparent bonhomie which can, at a later stage, be established as a ‘connection’.
For Mr. Rawat, the immediate tasks at hand would be monitoring the elections in the states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland which are due next month. Post these, there are elections in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh which are due later this year. However, Mr. Rawat may not monitor the 2019 General Elections given that he turns 65 in December this year. (CEC retires at 65).
We wish Mr. Om Prakash Rawat good luck for his new role and we hope he furthers the ‘one nation, one election’ policy.
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