Constitutional posts to politics

NAT

In the midst of the debate over the "loss" caused to the exchequer due to the controversial allotment of 2G telecom licences, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh accused Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai of having "political ambitions". Singh cited the instance of one of Rai's predecessors T N Chaturvedi to buttress his assertion of the CAG "misusing his office" to score brownie points with the Opposition.

Whether Singh is proven right or wrong, what he has achieved is a re-ignition of the debate over whether holders of constitutional offices such as judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, CAG, election commissioners etc, should accept post-retirement jobs, political or otherwise, or enter politics.

Of course, Singh omitted to mention that his own party shares the blame, there being numerous examples of former constitutional functionaries becoming members of the Congress, some of them even going on to enter Parliament on the party's mandate.

Some of the leading examples of former constitutional figures becoming card-carrying politicians are former CAG Chaturvedi (BJP), former chief election commissioner M S Gill (Congress), CJI-turned-Rajya Sabha MP Ranganath Mishra (Congress) and Supreme Court judge-turned-Lok Sabha MP Baharul Islam (Congress), Punjab and Haryana High Court chief justice-turned-governor-turned-Rajya Sabha MP Rama Jois (BJP) and Congress Rajya Sabha MP-turned Supreme Court judge-turned-Janata Party Lok Sabha MP-turned-Speaker K S Hegde.

The list doesn't include many others who held constitutional positions before becoming governors on retirement.

T N CHATURVEDI

Till Digvijaya Singh accused Vinod Rai of acting like him, many people, especially the post-Bofors generation, had forgotten about CAG-turned-Rajya Sabha MP-turned-governor Triloki Nath Chaturvedi. The 1950-batch, Rajasthan-cadre IAS officer, now 84, leads a quiet life in Noida.

He held important posts including those of home secretary and education secretary in the Indira Gandhi government, before being appointed CAG by the Rajiv Gandhi regime in 1984. It was during Chaturvedi's tenure till 1990 that the CAG began an inquiry into the purchase of Bofors guns. The CAG went on to make a scathing indictment of the Rajiv government.

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