Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, who famously dissented on the poll code violations by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah during this year’s Lok Sabha polls, has found himself under the scanner from the power ministry. This was after a newspaper reported that the Modi government had asked 11 public sector undertakings to verify whether Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa had exercised ‘undue influence’ during his tenure in the power ministry from 2009 to 2013.
No sooner did The Indian Express carry the news earlier this week, former bureaucrats, journalists, social media users and the opposition Congress began to rally behind the technocrat. IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan, who recently resigned protesting the government crackdown in Kashmir, wrote on Twitter, “An Election Commissioner who had shown interest in finding out the vulnerabilities in the EVM-VVPAT process is targeted by the government. We will keep quiet now too. And let them tarnish his image & discredit him.”
An Election Commissioner who had shown interest in finding out the vulnerabilities in the EVM-VVPAT process is targeted by the government. We will keep quiet now too. And let them tarnish his image & discredit him. pic.twitter.com/1H5IMaDlqM
— Kannan Gopinathan (@naukarshah) November 5, 2019
Chief spokesperson of the Congress party, Randeep Surjewala, wrote on Twitter in Hindi, “Name: Ashok Lavasa. Job: Election Commissioner. Crime: He disagreed on decisions related to self-proclaimed ruler Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah during elections. Punishment: 👇👇👇👇👇.”
नाम: अशोक लवासा।
काम: चुनाव आयुक्त।
अपराध: चुनाव के समय एक स्वघोषित शासक, श्री नरेंद्र मोदी व भाजपा अध्यक्ष, अमित शाह से सम्बंधित फैसले के खिलाफ असहमति जताई।
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) November 7, 2019
The news of the Centre trying to find wrongdoings by Lavasa during his previous postings did not go down well with the Twitterati too with calling it a brazen attempt by the Modi government to punish an upright holder of the constitutional post.
The story that caught my eye: the EC who chose to put up a dissent note during general elections against ruling Govt leadership is now being investigated by power ministry!! His family already being questioned by IT! Vendetta or genuine invgn? You decide! https://t.co/G7pm4rVWRv
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) November 5, 2019
Is @AshokLavasa a threat since he proved to be an independent Election Commissioner in the group of 3 at the ECI? Why this harassment now, when every officer at that level is cleared by Central Vigilance Commission before the appointment? Does Lavasa know too much? pic.twitter.com/SpAnABinY6
— Vinod K. Jose (@vinodjose) November 5, 2019
Modi govt will take revenge 4m #ElectionCommissioner Ashok Lavasa
D entire govt machinery hasbeen engaged behind him, who opposing cleanchit in 5complaints related 2 violation of code of conduct to PM Modi& AmitShah
Modi ji, Consider ur prestige & position https://t.co/mRI2qZnyiP
— Md. Fujail Ahmed (@MdFujailAhmed) November 5, 2019
Can we expect fair elections from 2021..??
Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa in the crosshairs of PM Modi and Amit Shah https://t.co/IYHkcDijE3
— Jude David (@judedavid21) November 5, 2019
In September, Lavasa’s wife Novel Singh had received notices from the Income Tax department in relation to her income as an independent director of multiple companies.
Lavasa had dissented with the CEC and another Election Commissioner after they gave a clean chit to Modi and Shah for poll code violations. On 1 May, the Election Commission had given Modi a clean chit on complaints of violations of the Model Code of Conduct during his election speech in Latur in Maharashtra. The same day, the national poll body ruled that Modi did not violate any rules with his speech made in Maharashtra’s Wardha, where he was seen provoking Hindus against the Congress at an election rally on 1 April.
On 3 May, the EC had given another clean chit to Modi on complaints of poll code violations. This was in the case of his speech in Rajasthan’s Barmer, where he had said that India was no longer scared of Pakistan and the country’s nuclear arsenal was not meant for Diwali celebrations. On 4 May, the EC said that Modi did not violate the model code in his speech in Gujarat’s Patan on 21 April. The Prime Minister had said that his government kept Pakistan on its toes to secure the safe release of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
Not just Ashok Lavasa, who’s second in seniority after Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, even his daughter Avny Lavasa too was seen acting against the BJP for poll code violation during this year’s Lok Sabha elections. Posted as Leh District Election Officer and Deputy Commissioner, Avny had vowed to punish BJP leaders after a video of local journalists being bribed by the saffron party functionaries went viral.