NEW DELHI: Sushil Chandra, who assumed charge as the 24th Chief Election Commissioner on Tuesday, said he would like to ensure that the ongoing assembly elections in West Bengal are held in a very peaceful and fair manner so that voters in even the vulnerable areas can cast their votes without any fear.
Chandra was appointed as the CEC on Monday, the day Sunil Arora demitted office. "I would like to ensure that the elections (in the remaining phases in West Bengal) should be held in a very peaceful and very, very free and fair manner so that voters even in the vulnerable areas can cast their votes without any fear," Chandra told PTI after assuming charge as CEC.
The high-octane assembly election campaign in West Bengal, where the BJP and the Trinamool Congress have unleashed a no-holds-barred attack against each other, has seen the EC clamping down on leaders of both parties for their objectionable utterances. The first four phases of polls in the state have been marred by violence.
While the three-phased assembly polls in Assam and the single-phase elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry have concluded, West Bengal is going through eight phases of polls.
The fifth phase is on April 17. Chandra said that an "atmosphere has to be created" to ensure free and fair polls. Asked how the poll panel will go about it, the CEC said the EC is monitoring and talking to all the officers on the ground as well as the observers and detailed meetings are taking place.
Chandra was appointed as an election commissioner on February 14, 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. He would demit office on May 14, 2022.
Under him, the Election Commission will hold assembly polls in Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
The term of the assemblies of Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Punjab ends on various dates in March next year. The term of the Uttar Pradesh assembly ends on May 14 next year.
Chandra belongs to the 1980 batch of the Indian Revenue Service. He is also an ex-officio member of the Delimitation Commission since February 18, 2020, looking after the process in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Having held several posts in the Income Tax Department for nearly 39 years, Chandra was appointed the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman on November 1, 2016.
He spent considerable time as Director of Investigation and Director General of Investigation, Mumbai and Gujarat, respectively followed by his stint as Member (Investigation), CBDT and thereafter assuming the post of Chairman of this apex body.
"Transparency and purity of political finance are of vital importance for a free and fair electoral process and the creation of a level playing field.
"Continuing the crusade that he started as CBDT Chairman against the menace of black money, Chandra was proactive as the erstwhile Election Commissioner in curbing the use of money power that vitiates the electoral process," the Commission said on Tuesday.
He has constantly emphasised the concept of "inducement-free" elections and it has become an integral dimension of monitoring the electoral process in all ongoing and forthcoming elections, the EC said.