New Delhi: In response to the explanation sought by the Election Commission over the much-touted direct cash transfer scheme announced by the Centre, the government on Monday said that code of conduct in poll-bound Gujarat was not violated. The government said that the first announcement about the scheme was made by the Finance Minister in his budget speech on March 16, 2012. It added that the first press release from Prime Minister's Office came on September 28 while the election dates were announced on October 3.
The Election Commission on Sunday conveyed its unhappiness to the Centre over the announcement of its direct cash transfer scheme when the Model Code in election-bound Gujarat is in force and sought a report by Monday evening. The EC also warned of appropriate action if the government's reply to its letter did not come by then.
In a strongly-worded letter to Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, the EC expressed its unhappiness over the timing of the announcement by the government and said it could have been avoided in view of the Gujarat Assembly elections later in December. "We have asked the Cabinet Secretary to give us a factual report on the issue by Monday evening and if we do not get a reply we will proceed with action," a top official of the Election Commission said. Incidentally, four of the 51 districts in which the cash transfer scheme is to be implemented from January 1 next fall in Gujarat.
Sources said the EC's fresh letter to the Cabinet Secretary was the second reminder in the matter. The Gujarat unit of BJP had on Thursday petitioned the poll body in this case, alleging a serious violation of the Model Code of Conduct. A day later, top party leaders led by LK Advani had personally met the Chief Election Commissioner to complain
against the announcement.
The government had in a major announcement in New Delhi claimed the scheme as a "game-changer", with Finance Minister P Chidamabaram and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh personally launching the scheme from the Congress headquarters in New Delhi. After complaining to the EC, Advani had said that such announcements should not be made by a government once election dates have been declared.
"There has been announcement of direct cash transfer...The states where elections are due should have been excluded. They (government) could not have done it under the (election) code of conduct," Advani had said. Gujarat goes to polls in two phases on December 13 and 17 and the Model Code is in force in the state.