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Kalam cancels public functions
Binds self to EC model code
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
In an unprecedented decision, President A P J Abdul Kalam has cancelled all his public functions till the General Election is over, voluntarily binding himself to the Election Commissionís Model Code of Conduct though the President does not come under its purview.

On the other side of the spectrum is Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat who has neither followed in the footsteps of the President nor intends to do so as far as the code of conduct is concerned.

President Kalam was to inaugurate a seminar at Vigyan Bhavan in the morning today on: ďArmy 2020: Shape, Size and Structure and General Doctrine for Emerging ChallengesĒ, organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS). He did not go to Vigyan Bhavan.

Rashtrapati Bhavan sources told The Tribune that the President had taken upon himself the responsibility of honouring the ECís model code which came into force on February 29. Todayís function was the second which the President did not eventually attend since February 29, the first one being his visit to Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) on March 2.

Sources said President Kalam had already given his consent to attend the Krishna Kant Memorial Lecture in Parliament Annexe tomorrow, but Rashtrapati Bhavan has already intimated the organisers of the lecture that the President would not be able to attend as of now. It is understood that the lecture has been deferred, not cancelled, and would now be held after the elections when the President would not have any qualms in attending it.

President Kalam, sources said, felt that whichever function he attends where he has to render a speech, he would inevitably be talking about the governmentís achievements and future programmes, which can suck the office of the President into the cesspool of narrow party politics.

Todayís seminar on ďArmy 2020Ē is a classic example of this as Dr Kalam has been talking of his vision of India becoming a superpower by the year 2020. The Vajpayee government has also adopted Dr Kalamís dream of turning India into a superpower by 2020.

Sources said wherever Dr Kalam goes, he talks of his Vision 2020 and speaks on his favourite theme of development. This is precisely what the Vajpayee government leaders have also been talking about at various fora.

Secondly, sources said, President Kalam makes no attempt to hide his heart-felt appreciation for the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and praises Mr Vajpayee in his public speeches.

This is one area where the Vice-President has a different style of functioning, sources close to Mr Shekhawat told The Tribune. Mr Shekhawat sticks to the main theme of the function and does not talk about Prime Minister Vajpayee or his government, sources pointed out.

In keeping with this tradition, Mr Shekhawat today attended the World Bamboo Congress here and delivered the valedictory address. He is going to Jaipur tomorrow for Holi and will come back only on March 8 late evening or March 9 morning. On March 9, Mr Shekhawat is to attend a public function here, which sources said, he would.

This is probably the first time when the President of India has voluntarily bound himself with the EC Model Code of Conduct, though such a code does not apply on the President or the Vice-President. In fact, the President of India is the custodian of the Constitutional body like the Election Commission and appoints Chief Election Commissioner as well as Election Commissioners.
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