EC asks government to defer cash transfer scheme in Gujarat, HP

The Election Commission of India today asked the government to defer implementation of the cash transfer scheme in four districts of Gujarat and two districts in Himachal Pradesh till state assembly elections are over.

VS SampathThe 3-member Election Commission headed by VS Sampath, which met in the morning, took the decision on a complaint filed by opposition Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) that the decision to implement the cash transfer scheme in poll-bound Gujarat was a clear violation of the model code of conduct by the UPA government.

The EC, obviously, was not satisfied with the central government's explanation to its query on the timing of the announcement and implementation of the scheme, which could be misused for bribing voters.

The EC said it has carefully considered the reply furnished by the secretary to government of India detailing the scheme of Aadhar-based direct cash transfer, but said the letter failed to address the EC's concern about the necessity of the timing of the announcement and implementation of the scheme at a time when the Model Code of Conduct is in operation in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

The commission's said it does not intent to go into the merits or demerits of the cash-transfer policy and that it was solely concerned about the timing of the policy decision.

''The Commission's concern is only to see whether any such policy decision or announcement thereof will have any impact on the election, if it is in progress, and whether it will 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 EC wrote.

''Taking into consideration of the above chronology of milestones of the scheme, the Commission is of the considered opinion that the aforesaid announcement was avoidable during the currency of the election process going by the letter and spirit of the Model Code of Conduct. The Commission, therefore, expresses concern over such 'announcement' and expects that such announcements during Model Code of Conduct operation are avoided,'' it added.

The Commission also directed that follow-up measures and consequential steps towards implementation of the scheme in respect of the four districts in Gujarat and the two districts in Himachal Pradesh, which are proposed to be covered in the first phase of implementation of the scheme, be kept in abeyance till completion of the election process in these two states.''