Diminutive and low-profile throughout his career—whether in the IAS or in the Commission, Veeravalli Sundaram Sampath, turns 65 tomorrow, the upper age limit under the Constitution for holding the post.

Stepping in as a Commissioner in March, 2009 at the end of first of five-phased Lok Sabha polls, he lays down office as CEC after completing the general elections in last May and Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir in December with a record vote percentage, notwithstanding the threat of gun and a harsh winter.

A 1975 batch Andhra Pradesh cadre officer, Sampath began as a district collector of large districts and worked in various wings of the state machinery before ushering in largescale power sector reforms in the state in the 90s.

He came to the Centre later and served as Secretary, Rural Development and Power before his elevation to the Election Commission.

However, there were difficult moments during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls following controversy over the decision not to allow a public meeting of Narendra Modi in a communally- sensitive area in Varanasi where he was a candidate and in Ahmedabad where he displayed election symbol of BJP and addressed a press conference close to an election booth on voting day.

The Varanasi decision evoked the anger of BJP but Sampath stood by the decision of the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, who had gone by the professional advice of UP and Gujarat Police against holding the rally.

In the Ahmedabad incident, it was a different matter that a local court accepted the Crime Branch closure report which said there was no violation of Model Code of Conduct by Modi who went on to become Prime Minister.

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