Wary eye on code violation

Shillong, Jan. 18: Opposition parties in Meghalaya have trained their guns on Union minister for commerce, industries and textiles Anand Sharma for allegedly violating the election model code of conduct.

Yesterday in New Delhi, Sharma, a senior Congress leader, had announced a Rs 55-crore scheme for agro-textiles in the Northeast.

Sharma, while inaugurating the second edition of TechnoTex-2013 at Pragati Maidan, announced a scheme on Usage of Agro-textiles in the Northeast with a five year budget of Rs 55 crore.

The minister added that a special scheme has also been formulated in the Union textiles ministry for the Northeast "for promotion of the textiles industry in this region by allowing fiscal flexibility through relaxation of parameters to suit localised region-specific requirements".

Considering that three northeastern states ' Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland ' are going to the polls next month, and the model code of conduct has already come into force since last Friday, the announcement could well attract the attention of the Election Commission.

Tripura will vote on February 14 while Meghalaya and Nagaland will elect new members to their respective state Assemblies on February 23.

"It is a clear violation of the model code of conduct, and I have alerted my party's head office in Delhi," BJP's Meghalaya state unit general secretary Dipayan Chakraborty said.

The National People's Party's Meghalaya state unit president W.R. Kharlukhi also said since three states of the region are going to the polls, Sharma's action had violated the model code.

"We will go through the reports before we decide on lodging any complaint before the Election Commission," Kharlukhi said.

Last Friday, soon after announcing the poll dates for the three states, the Election Commission had declared in its website that "the model code of conduct comes into effect immediately from now onwards. All the provisions of the model code will apply to the whole of Meghalaya Nagaland and Tripura and will be applicable to all candidates, political parties, state governments of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura, and the Union government from today itself."

A provision under the model code of conduct clearly states from the time elections are announced, ministers and other authorities "shall not announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof" which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power. An Election Commission official said: "The Centre cannot announce any new scheme relating to the three states since the elections have been announced."

He, however, said the commission will check with the ministry to confirm the announcement of the minister.

A state election department official said it was difficult to comment whether the Union minister's announcement had violated the model code, as the names of the beneficiary states were not declared.

It is also yet to be confirmed whether the Union textiles ministry had sought prior permission from the commission before announcing the scheme.

Yesterday, the commission had stated that it had "no objection" to the proposal which it received from the Union petroleum ministry regarding revising of the annual cap on subsidised LPG domestic cylinders from six to nine from next year and to revise the cap for this year from three to five. However, the commission said no undue publicity should be given in poll-bound states.

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