NEW DELHI: In the full-blown cold war between Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi and Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been drawn in, albeit to uphold the poll panel’s ‘functional autonomy’ guaranteed by the Constitution.
The Election Commission on Friday deliberated upon Khurshid’s explanation on the 9 per cent reservation to minorities, in the context of the PM’s letter. Apart from hinting, in a TV interview, that the EC was in a way under the Law Ministry’s thumb, Khurshid had committed another faux pas by promising quota to minorities while campaigning for his wife Louise in Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh.
Curiously, the contents of the PM’s January 5 letter to the CEC got leaked just when the Commission was meeting on Khurhid’s minority remarks. The letter was wrote in response to Quraishi’s December 29 letter complaining about the Law Minister’s comments ‘undermining the authority of the EC’.
In his reply, the PM is believed to have assured Quraishi that the EC’s ‘autonomy was never under question’.
However, his subsequent remark that ‘if there are any apprehensions, it will be taken care of’, has raised EC’s hackles.
The PMO confirmed that Singh had indeed replied to Quraishi’s letter on January 5, but refused to comment on the contents.
Quraishi, on his part, dismissed all suggestions that the cold war between him and Khurshid had any personal overtone.
Sources close to the CEC, however, said that he had taken serious objections to Khurshid citing his Law Ministry clearing the Commissioner’s foreign trips to highlight the fact that all constitutional authority comes under some government control.
Khurshid clarified that his comments was not seen in proper light and that he was talking in the context of the Lokpal issue. He drew the comparison to explain that the CBI being under the government control did not necessarily mean that the latter influenced the investigations conducted by the agency.
Seeing the muddying of the waters, the Congress on Friday quickly dissociated itself from Khurshid’s comments, both on the 9 per cent quota and on the EC’s constitutional mandate.