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"EC an extended branch of BJP": Sanjay Raut, Kapil Sibal question resignation of top polling official

Mumbai: Weighing in on the surprise resignation of Election Commissioner Arun Goel barely weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut on Sunday labelled the poll panel as an "extended branch of the BJP".
Speaking to the reporters here on Sunday, Raut hit out at the ruling party at the Centre saying that the Election Commission has been 'privatised' by the BJP.
"The Election Commission has become an extended branch of the BJP. It is no longer the same election watchdog as it was during the tenure of (former chief election commissioner) TN Seshan. The Commission, which used to be a reliable polling body, has lost its credibility today. In the last 10 years (under the BJP-led NDA), the Election Commission has been privatised," he said.
Questioning the conduct of the poll body, Raut said, "The Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP have experienced how the Election Commission works these days. They put the NCP in the hands of people who did not deserve to take ownership of the party and its symbol at all. The Election Commission, as we knew it, is dead and there is no point shedding tears."
The EC recently allowed Ajit Pawar's faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to use the party's name and its electoral symbol of the clock after a split in the party.
Ajit Pawar and eight other legislators of the NCP joined Maharashtra's ruling coalition in July of last year. Pawar took oath as the deputy chief minister shortly after.
The poll panel's order came as a setback to Sharad Pawar, Ajit uncle and the party's founder.
The EC also legitimised the Shinde's faction as the real Shiv Sena earlier as it was allotted the bow and arrow symbol while the group headed by Thackeray now goes by the name Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and uses 'flaming torch' as its symbol.
In a surprise move ahead of the announcement of Lok Sabha polls, Election Commissioner Arun Goel on Saturday resigned from the post.
The resignation of Goel left the three-member Election Commission with only one member, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, after the earlier retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MP and former Congress leader Kapil Sibal also expressed his 'surprise' over the sudden resignation of Arun Goel while raising questions over the reason behind the move.
Speaking to ANI on Sunday, Sibal said 'something serious' might have prompted the election commissioner to take the curtain call, three years before the completion of his tenure.
"It surely is (surprising). If at the cusp of an election, which is just a couple of months away, you resign...obviously there is something serious on the basis of which he resigned. I can't possibly speculate on the reason but obviously there is some element of difference of opinion, especially when his term was still not over," the Rajya Sabha MP said.
Sibal alleged further that the poll panel will be tailor-made to suit the interest of the ruling party at the Centre, as the BJP will "pack the Commission with their own people".
"They will pack the Commission with their own people as they have done in the past. Therefore, the election schedule, phases of polling and all other aspects will be tailor-made to suit the interest of the ruling party," Sibal claimed.

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