M A I N   N E W S

Remove hoardings
Election Commission directive to Centre, states
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
The Election Commission today directed the Central and the state governments to immediately remove all hoardings and advertisements which were still on display “at the cost of public exchequer” and send compliance reports.

It also stated that the commission was “gathering facts” about the reported violation of the Model Code of Conduct by Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani at a Central Industrial Security Force function yesterday.

EC spokesperson A N Jha said while putting up new hoardings and advertisements was violative of the Model Code of Conduct, even continued display of such material impinged upon the code.

Asked whether any deadline had been set, he said the parties concerned had been asked to comply with the direction as soon as possible. It could be 24 hours or 48 hours, he said in reply to a specific question.

Though the commission was not aware of the exact number of such hoardings, their number would be ‘’sizeable’’ across the country, Mr Jha said.

On Mr Advani’s alleged violation of the code, he said the Election Commission was “gathering facts.”

Deputy Election Commissioner A.N. Jha refused to say anything more in reply to a reporter’s query on Mr Advani listing the achievements of the government in his speech at the CISF Raising Day function.

The Deputy Prime Minister also dwelt at length over the ‘’feel-good factor’’ and the government’s fulfilment of promises the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had made in its manifesto, the reports had said.

Meanwhile, the commission has directed the Union Ministry of Rural Development not to release any fresh funds in any part of the country as any such move would be violative of the Model Code of Conduct.

The Commission said no work may be started for which the work order had been issued before the enforcement of the code but the work had actually not started in the field. However, if the work had actually started, it could continue. There was no bar to the release of payment for completed work, it said.

On the release of funds for new schemes for drought-affected or flood-affected areas or employment generation for people below the poverty line in the rural areas, the commission said it would consider such propositions on a case-to-case basis. However, there may be no objection to the release of funds for the ongoing projects.

Meanwhile, the commission has issued show-cause notices to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in two constituencies, including Adilabad, for alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

The notices have been served by the District Election Officers, he said.

While refusing to comment on the AIADMK manifesto where Ms Sonia Gandhi has been described as a foreigner, the commission spokesperson said “there should not be any personalised attack.”



Orders fair liquor auctions in Punjab
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
The Election Commission today asked the holding of liquor bids in Punjab in a “transparent” manner and without any “political intervention,” while directing that the Governor’s speech before the Assembly session be without any policy announcements.

The Election Commission considered the matter following a query sent by the Chief Electoral Officer of the state that the liquor auctions were being undertaken when the model code of conduct was in place.

The commission, which discussed the issue at length, said: “It has allowed the excise auctions, but has stipulated that these have to be based on open and competitive bidding, decided on the highest bid by administrative personnel without any political intervention and on totally transparent basis.”

As the liquor bids were being cornered by Ponty Chadha, a liquor baron from Uttar Pradesh, it had raked up controversy with the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which alleged that the ruling Congress government was showing favours to select individuals.

Reacting to the allegations, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who is in the Capital, said the charge of manipulation was “politically motivated”.

He asserted that the auctions of liquor vends were being carried out in a transparent manner.

“The auctions were transparent.... it is election time and the reports that the liquor bids were a farce were politically motivated,” he said.

The whole process was videotaped by state excise and revenue officials, the Chief Minister added.

He said there had been no change in the procedure of auctioning and there was no question of stage-managing the auctions.

On the forthcoming Assembly session in the state, which is expected to commence on March 15, the state Chief Electoral Officer had sought commission’s views on the proposed address by the Governor, as it was the first session of the year.

The commission observed that in view of the fact that the model code of conduct was in place, the “Governor’s speech may not contain any reference regarding announcement of new schemes, project and plans.”


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