New Delhi: Sunil Arora, 62, took charge as the new and 23rd Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India on Sunday and will oversee the mammoth Lok Sabha elections taking place next year. He has served as Election Commissioner for over an year now and is set to be in the top office of the Election Commission (EC) till April 2021 during which he will also oversee polls to at least 10 state assemblies.
Arora succeeded former CEC Om Prakash Rawat and interestingly took over in the middle of an ongoing state elections. Just in his first week in office, Arora’s immediate assignment would include polling in the two key states of Rajasthan and Telangana on Friday. The Election Commission (EC) under him would also carry out the counting exercise for all five states on 11 December.
Born in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur on 13 April, 1956, Arora is a former Indian Administrative (IAS) officer from Rajasthan cadre. He has served at key positions in several organisations during his 36 years of service. One of his key profile has been as the Chairman and Managing Director of the then Indian Airlines for nearly three years beginning with 2002 and also as member of the board of directors of Air India and Airport Authority of India.
Among his more recent roles prior to joining EC, Arora super annuated as the secretary in ministry of information and broadcasting in April 2016 prior to which he was in the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship. He has served on key positions in his cadre state as well including additional chief secretary, home, Rajasthan government as well as chairman of Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO).
At the top post in EC, Arora will oversee polling in states like Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Delhi, Bihar as well as Jammu and Kashmir. Arora’s appointment comes at a time when there is an increased political debate over the efficiency of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections.
During his tenure as CEC, Rawat took a series of steps including all party meetings and hackathon to defend the EC’s stance of using EVMs and clear the doubts among political parties over its use. Arora in his tenure is likely to face similar challenges specially with crucial Lok Sabha polls slated in less than six months.
Making his priorities clear, Arora while taking over on Sunday said that a committee headed by senior deputy election commissioner Umesh Sinha on various facets of Section126 of the Representation of the Peoples Act (RPA) 1951will get submitted to the EC by end of the year. “In order to address the challenges in the wake of expansion and diversity of media platforms and suggest modification and changes" to the RPA, the EC had formed a 14 member committee earlier this year.
“The entire democratic world looks up to it and those countries who are transiting towards democracies, for them this Commission is a beacon of hope. It is with utmost humility and an enormous sense of responsibility that I have just taken over as Chief Election Commissioner," Arora said on Sunday.
Apart from Arora, the EC currently has Ashok Lavasa as an election commissioner and the post of one more election commissioner has become vacant owing to Rawat’s exit which is likely to be filled soon.