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Brain behind Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav — who is Arun Goel, new EC caught in SC-Modi govt tussle

In culture ministry, Goel had conceptualised Mahotsav, made initial plans & got it going. Known as 'man of business' & 'calculative taskmaster', say people who worked with him.

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New Delhi: More than one and half years after the launch of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the man behind its concept is now in the news: Arun Goel. It was in his role as secretary of the culture ministry between May 2018 and December 2019 that Goel conceptualised the high-profile project, made initial plans and got it going, ThePrint has learnt.

Several senior members of various committees under the culture ministry vouched Goel’s “finest understanding of Bharat and its ancient traditions”. These members, who are also closely connected with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), also remember him as a “man of business” who knows how to “assert” himself.

Not many of them were surprised either that the 1985-batch IAS officer was chosen as an election commissioner given his image of a “calculative taskmaster”.

Three days after he took voluntary retirement, Goel had assumed office on November 21 to join chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar and election commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey in the Election Commission. Goel is in line to succeed Kumar who demits office in February 2025.

But the appointment has now come under the lens of the Supreme Court. On Thursday, the top court yet again grilled the Modi government for “tearing hurry” in going ahead with its decision in the matter.

Also Read: ‘Nothing to fear if no hanky-panky’: SC asks govt for file on new poll commissioner’s appointment

‘Sets timeline for project’

Talking to The Print, Sachchidanand Joshi, member secretary, the executive and academic head of New Delhi-based Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), gave an insight into work ethics of the retired civil servant.

“Arun Goel is one of those officers who mean business. He believes in setting a timeline for a project and not a person who gives in to red tape. He demands assertion. He is also an officer who understands Bharat and our traditions and culture,” said Joshi, who is also the president of Sangh affiliate Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal.

A source in the culture ministry added: “He (Goel) conceptualised the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav and contributed a lot to ideas at the initial stage.”

From 2011 to 2022 at the Centre, Goel had served various ministries including heavy industries, culture, urban development, finance, and labour and employment. Before he was posted as secretary in the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Goel had a stint in the culture ministry.

Senior officers in the culture ministry said that the idea behind bringing the unsung heroes to the forefront under the Mahotsav was Goel’s as well.

In Punjab, Goel had served under both the Congress and Akali governments. During Goel’s stint with the Ministry of Urban Development under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule, there were certain disagreements between him and then urban development minister Kamal Nath, said a retired IAS officer who worked with him closely.

“Goel objected to certain proposals which were not in the book. There was an active political lobby against him. So, he was posted out. In 2014, when the new government came to power, he was seen as an honest officer wronged by the UPA-II. But he faced issues again under the new government, too.”

“In the culture ministry, he was noticed for his ideas,” the retired officer said, corroborating how Goel managed to create a name for himself during his stint in the ministry.

(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)

Also Read: ‘Outsider tag, hostile IAS lobby’ to blame? Modi govt sees 2nd lateral hire exit since 2020


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