The Election Commission on Tuesday censured the government for announcing the Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) last week in violation of the model code of conduct in vogue in view of the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
While saying the announcement was ‘avoidable’, the hour-long full Commission meeting on Tuesday decided to let-off the government without reprimand. “Centre could have avoided announcement during the Gujarat polls keeping in mind the letter and spirit of the poll code,” the Election Commission said in a three-page order.
A high-powered BJP delegation led by LK Advani had filed a complaint that the scheme was announced eyeing Gujarat elections, particularly when four benefited districts are from the state.
The Election Commission in its order questioned the timing of the cash transfer announcement and asked the government to defer its implementation in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh till the end of the assembly elections.
The Commission asked the government to stop all ‘follow-up and consequential steps towards the implementation of the scheme in respect of the four districts in Gujarat and the two districts in Himachal Pradesh.”
The Congress party said it respects the Commission decision. The party spokesperson PC Chacko, however, reminded that this scheme would be operationalized from January next year, only after the election process in Gujarat over. The votes are scheduled to be counted in both the states on December 20.
The Centre in its response had said that the scheme was announced months before the Gujarat polls, citing the announcement in then finance minister Pranb Mukherjee’s budget speech and the first press release on the matter was issued by the PMO on September 28. It said date of Gujarat elections was announced on October 3. The Election Commission also noted that the government’s letter was silent with regard to the justification and the necessity of announcement of the scheme at this juncture, when two states were in the midst of election process. Rejecting the government argument that scheme was announced by the finance minister in his budget speech in March, the order said while Commission’s consistent approach and policy has been not to go into the merits of the policy decision, it was the duty of the Commission to ensure it does not disturb the level playing field amongst political parties and candidates in election fray. “In the instant case also, the Commission’s concern is limited to the above issue.”
“The Commission is of the considered opinion that the aforesaid announcement was avoidable during the currency of the election process.....The Commission, therefore, expresses concern over such ‘announcement’ and expects that such announcements during model code of conduct operation are avoided.”