Cash transfer plan runs foul of poll panel

Election commission

The Election Commission has expressed unhappiness over the UPA government's direct cash transfer scheme, seeking a response from Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth on the announcement being made at a time when the poll process is underway in Gujarat and the model code of conduct is in force.

In a letter to Seth on Sunday, the EC warned of appropriate action if the government didn't respond by Monday evening. According to sources, it waited for an answer till 4 pm on Sunday.

The poll panel reportedly suggested in the letter that the government could have avoided taking such a decision until the election process was over.

The BJP had petitioned the EC alleging serious violation of the model code of conduct in the government's scheme. Senior leaders L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj along with others had called on Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath last Friday and lodged a complaint. The Gujarat unit of the BJP had also petitioned the poll body.

The party said on Sunday that it hoped that the Election Commission will take suitable action against the government over the scheme. It also termed the "violation" of the model code a "conspiracy" to divert attention from "real issues" of corruption, scams and price rise.

Government representatives, however, have maintained that the announcement was not an electoral violation. Law Minister Ashwini Kumar told The Indian Express that it was a continuation of the decision that had been taken much earlier and was also a part of the Congress manifesto.

Last week, the government laid out the contours of the scheme, interestingly from the Congress headquarters. Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh called the plan a "gamechanger" at the launch.

Four of the 51 districts in which the cash transfer scheme is to be implemented from January 1 fall in Gujarat.

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