BJP government in Maharashtra wants relaxations in code of conduct

Ministers say that the model code should be restricted only to those places where the polls will be held

People holding ministerial positions cannot even attend official functions and are barred from using government vehicles while travelling in areas where the election is on. Representational pic
People holding ministerial positions cannot even attend official functions and are barred from using government vehicles while travelling in areas where the election is on. Representational pic

There is nothing scary for a government than the model of code of conduct for elections. The BJP government in Maharashtra, which will complete two years later this month, has decided to petition election authorities for some relaxations because it has been barred from taking any policy decision, or implementing development programmes in view of local self-government elections to be held in 25 districts in November, December and January.

The state cabinet discussed the issue on Tuesday at a meeting. Ministers said that the code of conduct should be restricted to places where polls will be held, and not in towns and cities where elections were not scheduled. The code for 212 municipal councils is expected to be in place till January. It will again be put in place when a dozen municipal corporations including Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nagpur will go to polls in February-March next year.

Stopping work
This means the government will not be able to work for six months between October and March. Losing such a long time would mean freezing new development works and new announcements. The only saving grace would be the work that was started before the code came into existence. Ideally, a model code is declared 40-45 days before the voting day. It applies to the government, political parties and contestants.

In view of regulations, the government had to stop on Monday afternoon, its publicity blitzkrieg, that was started ahead of its completion of two years, merely a week ago. It violates the model code, which also bars people holding ministerial positions from taking policy decisions and publicising them. They cannot attend official functions and are barred from using government vehicles while travelling in areas where the election process is on.

Govt to speak to EC
Expressing the Cabinet’s displeasure, Food and Civil Supplies and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Girish Bapat told the media, “The model code should be as per the rules. It should not hamper development works in areas where elections are not scheduled. The Cabinet discussed the issue and was very much concerned about stalling of development work. The government will ask State Election Commission to reconsider its decision.”

The ensuing local self-government polls, to be held in phases over next six months, will cover almost every part of the state. The model code will be lifted on the day of counting.

A senior minister says it is expected that there will be a 15-day break after the last phase polls in Nagpur and Gondia are held in January.

The code diktat
>> Governments cannot do anything which may influence voters, and political parties and candidates are forbidden from indulging in corrupt practices

>> The ruling party should not use its power to campaign. 

>> The ruling party ministers should not make any ad-hoc appointment of officials to influence voters.

Civic polls in numbers

212: Civic councils/ panchayats going to polls

192: Municipal councils/ panchayats will directly elect president

4,750: Seats to go to polls

2,445: Seats reserved for women

608: Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes 

198: Seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes

1,315: Seats reserved for other backward classes

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