FROM RELEASING crores of rupees to Uttar Pradesh as part of a “Bundelkhand package” and housing sops under a Central scheme to Goa, to the announcement of developing railway stations — the BJP-led NDA government seems to have tried to push a host of initiatives meant for election-bound states despite the fact that the model code of conduct was in operation.
The Election Commission of India (EC) stopped at least 15 such measures of the Centre, citing the fact that they could influence voters in states such as UP, Goa, Punjab and others, and that such measures are best announced once the election results are declared, The Indian Express has learnt.
In one case, the NITI Aayog, on behalf of the government, wanted release of Rs 79.83 crore to UP as a one-time grant towards earlier sanctioned projects under Bundelkhand package during 2016-17. In another instance, the Rural Development Ministry wanted to release to Goa the first installment under the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana.
In both instances, the EC asked the ministries to wait for the election to get over, officials said.
Similarly, the Railway Ministry sent a list of 23 stations it wanted redeveloped, and wanted to announce the move through a function. The Election Commission told the ministry to knock off Allahabad and
Kanpur from the list and said the rest were good to go.
As per rules, the government has to take the EC’s permission before making any new announcement, lest these impact voters. Officials said there were 141 such instances in which the Central government wanted to make announcements since January 4, when the Model Code of Conduct came into force. The EC cleared 93 such proposals (66 per cent) — most of it within 48 hours.
But some proposals, it seems, were a little tricky. The Water Resources Ministry, for instance, wanted to publish a seemingly innocuous advertisement in the five states along the Ganga basin — UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The EC took some time to ponder over it and finally told the government to wait for the elections in UP and Uttarakhand to get over.
Even something apparently routine like revision of the Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF) rate did not get the election watchdog’s nod. The Labour Ministry, which wanted to announce reduction of administrative charges under the EPF from 0.85 per cent to 0.65 per cent, was told to keep it on hold.
Of the proposals deemed fit to clear, the maximum of 11 proposals came from the Health Ministry, followed by nine from the Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry, EC officials said.