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EC writes to govt on Model Code of Conduct, says certain decisions disturb level playing field, check with us

Was surprised over Budget advancement, Combined Commanders’ meet

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |
January 29, 2017 3:48:55 am
Election commission, ec, election commission of india, poll, poll body, punjab polls, UP polls, Manipur polls, goa polls, uttarakhand polls, voting, voting dates, Nasim Zaidi, elections in india, elections news, india news, indian express news Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi recently went on record to state that the poll panel was never consulted by the government on the presentation of the Union Budget. (File photo)

UPSET over some recent decisions of the government, the Election Commission of India (EC) wrote to Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha on Friday reminding him that steps taken during the election season can only be announced after consulting the poll watchdog. Referring specifically to the finance and defence ministries, the letter noted that decisions such as those taken by them could have a bearing on elections in the five poll-bound states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

“The Commission has noted that in certain cases, the ministries/departments took decisions, which have effect of disturbing level playing field of poll-bound states, without referring the matter to the Commission, particularly by Niti Aayog, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Finance,” the letter states.

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Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi recently went on record to state that the poll panel was never consulted by the government on the presentation of the Union Budget. The matter was brought to the EC’s notice by opposition parties, which urged the Commission to prevent the government from presenting it on February 1, just three days before the first phase of the elections, arguing that the government may announce populist measures to gain an unfair advantage.

The EC later cleared the Budget presentation on the condition that the government will not make any announcements specific to the poll-bound states.

Punjab and Goa vote on February 4, while results for all the five states will be announced on March 11.

Similarly, the commission found out about the Combined Commanders’ Conference only when the Prime Minister’s Office sought the EC’s concurrence for Narendra Modi’s presence at the January 21 event in Dehradun.

The Sunday Express has learnt that the Defence Ministry, in its response to the EC, defended the move to go ahead with the Commanders’ Conference on the ground that the decision was taken in December 2016. The commission reportedly then reminded the ministry that it ‘has’ to be consulted even if the decision was made before the announcement of polls.

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The EC later permitted the conference on the condition that it would not be combined with any other public event and no announcement with regard to serving or retired soldiers would be made.

As regards the NITI Aayog, the EC had directed it to defer holding gram sabhas in the five election states.

The Model Code of Conduct expects the party in power to not use its position to further its chances in elections. Hence, the government of the day has to refer all decisions to the EC before implementing or announcing them during the election season.

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