Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, who was next in line to head the poll panel, was on Wednesday named as the new vice-president of the Philippines-based Asian Development Bank — a position he can take only after resigning from his current job.
Lavasa, who would have retired as the Chief Election Commissioner in October 2022, would be the second election commissioner to step down from the poll panel before the completion of his term.
“The ADB has appointed Ashok Lavasa as Vice-President for Private Sector Operations and Public-Private Partnerships,” the multilateral lending agency said in a statement. “He will succeed Diwakar Gupta, whose term will end on August 31.”
His appointment as vice president is on the recommendation of the Government of India, sources said.
People familiar with the way ADB and other multilateral agencies function said no international body announces an appointment unless the person being appointed has accepted the position.
Also, high-level appointments at multilateral agencies do not happen without the concurrence of the government.
Election Commission sources, however, said Lavasa is yet to resign from the poll body as his joining in ADB is only in September.
The last time an election commission put in his papers was in 1973 when CEC Nagendra Singh was appointed a judge in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
Lavasa, a career bureaucrat, joined as Election Commissioner on January 23, 2018, and being senior most on the poll panel would have become CEC in April next year after the term of incumbent Sunil Arora ends.
Lavasa still has over two years left in his term at the Election Commission of India and as CEC, he would have conducted assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur, and Goa, among other states.
His premature exit puts his colleague Sushil Chandra next in the line of succession.
Sources in the poll panel said Lavasa is still part of the Election Commission.
As per the provisions of the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, an EC or the CEC can tender his or her resignation addressed to the President.
Lavasa had made headlines during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when he gave a dissenting note to the Election Commission of India giving a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP president Amit Shah on charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct.
Soon after the elections, three members of the Lavasa family including his wife came under the scanner of the Income Tax Department for alleged non-declaration of income and disproportionate assets.
ADB appoints a vice-president for a term of three years, which can be extended by another two years. The ADB president heads a management team comprising six vice-presidents.
An MBA degree from Southern Cross University in Australia, and MPhil in Defense and Strategic Studies degree from the University of Madras, Lavasa, a 1980 batch IAS officer of Haryana cadre, retired as Finance Secretary.
“Lavasa has a long and distinguished career in the Indian civil service,” ADB said in the statement citing his bureaucratic career. “He has extensive experience in public-private partnerships and infrastructure development at the state and federal levels, with deep knowledge on public policy and the role of the private sector.”
Lavasa led the Indian delegation in the climate change negotiations for the Paris Agreement and was instrumental in finalising India’s nationally determined contributions, which included a major role of the private sector, it said adding as Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, he worked closely with many ADB projects that had private sector components.