Who are the two new Election Commissioners? What is their political affiliation? 

Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu have had impactful careers that are aligned with the BJP’s governance agenda.

Published : Mar 15, 2024 13:29 IST - 5 MINS READ

Gyanesh Kumar (R) and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu (L), the newly-appointed Election Commissioners’ careers have had close links with the Central government’s initiatives.

Gyanesh Kumar (R) and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu (L), the newly-appointed Election Commissioners’ careers have had close links with the Central government’s initiatives. | Photo Credit: PTI

Newly-appointed Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, both IAS officers of the 1988 batch, have played critical roles within the bureaucracy, closely linked with the BJP-led government’s strategic initiatives and policy implementations. While Gyanesh Kumar’s tenure underscores his involvement in policies such as the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir, Sukhbir Singh Sandhu’s journey from overseeing national highways under Nitin Gadkari’s Ministry to assuming responsibilities at Lokpal reflects the symbiotic relationship between their careers and the BJP’s governance agenda.

Gyanesh Kumar: Behind key Modi government policies

Gyanesh Kumar, a 1988 batch IAS officer of the Kerala cadre, has had significant involvement with Union Home Minister Amit Shah throughout his career. Notably, Kumar served as the head of the Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh Affairs Division in the Union Home Ministry during the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status on August 5, 2019. He played a pivotal role in formulating the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, which resulted in the division of the former state into two centrally administered Union Territories.

Also Read | Proposal on electoral promises a case of Election Commission overreach

In 2020, while holding the position of Additional Secretary in the Union Home Ministry, Kumar led a desk overseeing matters related to the Ayodhya dispute and the subsequent litigation in the Supreme Court. He also managed the court’s verdict on the Ayodhya Ram temple and the establishment of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust. The Ayodhya cell within the Union Home Ministry, initially established in 1990 and later disbanded after the Liberhan Commission submitted its report, was reinstated by the Modi government in 2020.

In May 2021, Kumar was appointed as Secretary of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. He later assumed the role of Secretary of the Union Ministry of Cooperation in May 2022, which is also overseen by Amit Shah. Concurrently, he retained the additional charge as Secretary of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. During his tenure with the Ministry of Cooperation, Kumar played a significant role in the enactment of the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (MSCS) (Amendment) Act, 2023. He is also recognised for the timely launch of the Central Registrar of Cooperative Societies (CRCS)-Sahara refund portal, facilitating depositors of the four Multi-State Cooperative Societies of the Sahara Group to submit their claims.

Before his retirement on January 31, 2024, Kumar served under the UPA government at the Ministry of Defence as Joint Secretary (Defence Production) from 2007 to 2012.

Born on January 27, 1964, in Uttar Pradesh, Kumar graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, with a specialisation in Civil Engineering. Additionally, he pursued a postgraduate degree in Economics from Harvard University and holds a certificate in Chartered Financial Analysis from the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI). His father was a doctor, and his grandfather was a freedom fighter.

Sukhbir Singh Sandhu: From highways to Lokpal 

In July 2021, when Pushkar Singh Dhami assumed office as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, a 1988-batch IAS officer of the Uttarakhand cadre, was appointed as the Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand. At that time, Sandhu was also serving as the Chairman of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) since October 2019.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari praised Sandhu for his tenure at NHAI, stating on X, “National highways witnessed a record in awards, construction, and dispute resolution even during the challenging times of COVID-19 under his leadership. His tenure at NHAI was one of the best ever achieved, and his contribution to the construction of oxygen plants across India will always be remembered.” 

In July 2023, Sandhu’s tenure as Uttarakhand Chief Secretary was extended for six months after Chief Minister Dhami requested his extension from the Centre. He retired from his position as Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand on January 31 of this year. On February 1, 2024, he was appointed as Secretary to Lokpal.

Before his assignment at NHAI, Dr. Sandhu served as an Additional Secretary in the Department of Higher Education, Government of India, where he oversaw technical education. He has also held positions as Additional Secretary in the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, and Secretary in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

According to an official statement, Sandhu has extensive experience in the fields of State Roads, Infrastructure development, Public Private Partnership (PPP) Projects, Finance, Urban Development, Environment, Health and Family Welfare, Tourism, Revenue Administration, Rural Development, Power, New & Renewable Energy, Information Technology, Industries, and Science & Technology. 

Born on July 6, 1963, Sandhu became an IAS officer at the age of 25. He completed his MBBS from Government Medical College, Amritsar, and earned a Master’s Degree in History from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. He is also a Law graduate.

He has authored papers on “Urban Reforms” and “Municipal Management and Capacity Building”. In recognition of his contributions as Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation in Ludhiana, Punjab, he was awarded the President Medal. He was again conferred the President’s Medal in 2001 for his services during the Census of India.

Also Read | Civil society influencers join hands to fight ‘democratic backslide’

Opposition expresses concerns

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress leader in the Lok Sabha and the only Opposition representative in the panel that picked the two Election Commissioners, later submitted a dissent note to the selection committee led by PM Modi. He stated that he was not provided with dossiers on the candidates or even the shortlist before the meeting on March 14. “I gave a dissent note because I was given 212 names at midnight, but at the meeting, I only saw six names. How could I have knowledge about these people?” he told the media. Chowdhury mentioned that upon his arrival in Delhi around midnight, he was presented with a lengthy list of eligible bureaucrats. 

“It is understood that the government can choose who it wants, but there was no adherence to any procedure even in that,” he said.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment