M A I N   N E W S

To Badal’s complaint, CEC retorts: We know our limits
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

Chandigarh/New Delhi, Jan 3
After Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said election officials observing the model code of election conduct were overstepping their constitutional mandate, Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi reminded him that the EC had a vested interest in the maintenance of law and order in the state.

Expressing his “deep dismay” at Badal airing his views through the media, Quraishi, in a strongly worded letter, said law and order was a pre-requisite for free and fair election and even the Supreme Court has acknowledged that the EC’s perception of law and order should be respected before the election.

The Punjab Chief Minister had suggested on Sunday that the Commission’s officials in the state were ordering the frequent transfer of officials that affected ongoing development work as well as the morale of the bureaucracy. The officials, he said, should function within the brief given by the Constitution before adding that mischievous elements could take advantage of the situation and create disturbances and violence in the state.

Officials of the Election Commission had yesterday pointed out that had the state government followed the advisory sent to it over three months ago, the EC would not have been forced to shift a large number of officials at the eleventh hour. The state government had been asked to shift out officials posted in their home districts and also officials who had been in the same post in the districts for over three years.

The Congress did not miss the opportunity to slam Badal, pointing out that it is a case of ‘the pot calling the kettle black’. Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari, who is from Ludhiana, told the media that after having hijacked governance in the state, it did not behove the SAD leader to lecture the Election Commission on its Constitutional duties. Captain Amarinder Singh also said that the row was unfortunate and blamed Badal for interfering in the work of the Election Commission.

"There is a difference between enforcing the model code for a free and fair poll on the one hand, and bringing the whole state to the brink of an administrative paralysis and developmental standstill, on the other. I have to appeal to the CEC to issue necessary directions to its officials to respect this crucial line," Badal had been quoted as saying.

In his letter Quraishi today hinted that Badal’s words could undermine electoral democracy saying “we must not do anything at this juncture that can undermine election management and overall electoral democracy in the state of Punjab as well as the whole country.”

Quraishi expressed “deep dismay” at media reports which said Badal had questioned the actions of the Commission’s officials during the election period. “I am particularly disappointed that you have chosen to communicate with me and the Commission through the media rather than directly for which several channels are always available.”

He assured “the Commission operates within diligent awareness of its constitutional mandate and recognises with the greatest respect the operational boundaries between various Constitutional bodies.” He also asked the SAD patriarch to “bring specific cases to our notice.”

On a more conciliatory note, Quraishi’s letter goes to say “Both the Commission and I personally value your standing as a political leader and statesman, besides fully respecting your high office. Hence the Commission is concerned that you have made general allegations of interference against its officials and questioned their conduct without any basis”. On enforcement of measures against black money in elections, the Commission’s action is backed by a national consensus and also by the concerns expressed by all political parties, Quraishi told Badal in his letter, a text of which was released to the media today.





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