Present Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora may join a gubernatorial office.


New Delhi: With the term of the present Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora coming to end in the next seven days (12 April), Election Commissioner (EC) Sushil Chandra is likely to succeed him as the next and the 24th Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India.

If sources within the bureaucratic circles, including Arora’s batchmate, who is a 1980 batch IAS officer, are to be believed Arora has been offered a gubernatorial position for a central state. Arora, who is a Rajasthan cadre officer, was close to one of the Jan Sangh founders and former Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat who was the CM of the state from 1993 to 1998. His efficiency later earned him the post of principal secretary to then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje from 2005 to 2008.

Sushil Chandra will be heading the Election Commission of India (ECI) till 15 May next year when he turns 65. The CEC or an EC can have a tenure of six years or hold office till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. As a rule, Chandra is likely to be succeeded by EC Rajiv Kumar who joined the body on 1 September 2020. Kumar’s tenure as the CEC after succeeding Chandra, will be till 19 February 2025 as he will turn 65 then.

The CEC and the EC are appointed under the rules provided under Article 324 (2) of the Constitution. No qualification has been mentioned for such appointments. The Union Cabinet uses its discretion to make the selection of the ECs in pursuance of the Transaction of Business rules, 1961 which is an executive procedure of making appointments at various bodies including for the posts of UPSC, Finance Commission Attorney General etc.

The government of India is likely to name the new Election Commissioner (EC) this week to fill in the space created by the retirement of Arora and the alleviation of Chandra as the CEC.

In June 2002, Arora was appointed as the full-time chairman-cum-managing director of Indian Airlines. Before that, he served as the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA was at the Centre between 1998 and 2004. He was later repatriated on a nine-year “vanwas’ to the state after the Congress-led UPA came to power in 2004. The “vanwas” ended after the BJP came to power at the Centre in May 2014 and Arora was appointed as the Secretary at the Department of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship under the Ministry of Skill Development, Entrepreneurship, Youth Affairs and Sports in August 2014. The Hoshiarpur-born Arora superannuated as the secretary in ministry of information and broadcasting in April 2016. After his retirement, he was appointed as the advisor to the Prasar Bharti before being appointed as the EC by the Central government in September 2017 after which he went on to become the CEC in November 2018.  Apart from the Lok Sabha 2019 elections, Arora also oversaw elections to crucial states like Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana, among others.

His younger brother, Sanjeev Arora, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of 1984 batch, retired in 2019.

Very few are aware that Sunil Arora, as a joint secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation from 1999 to 2002, handled the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 to Kandahar which subsequently led to the release of three terrorists, including Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar.