Has Ajit Pawar violated election code of conduct?

Deputy CM lays foundation stone in bhoomi poojan ceremony for PMC flyover project within hours of poll panel announcing civic elections date.

It seems Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has violated the election code of conduct on the very first day of its kicking in. The State Election Commission (SEC) yesterday announced the date for the civic elections --February 16 -- and within hours of it Pawar inaugurated a flyover project near New Sangamwadi bridge in Shivaji Nagar.

Breach of code? Deputy CM Ajit Pawar inaugurates the flyover project 
near the New Sangamwadi bridge in Shivaji Nagar yesterday

The code of conduct becomes applicable with the announcement of an election. Pawar laid the foundation stone in a bhoomi poojan ceremony for the flyover project. NCP MLA Anil Bhosale, who organised the event, told MiD DAY that it was not a party function but a Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) event and it was pre-planned, so there was no question of cancellation of the event.  

Poll code violation? Dy CM Ajit Pawar inaugurates the flyover project 
with a bhoomi pujan near New Sangamwadi bridge yesterday

Returning Officer Avinash Hadgal said, "If any politician holding a government post inaugurates any government projects after the announcement of code of conduct, then it's violation of the code." Hadgal added that if Pawar inaugurated the government project after the announcement of the code of conduct, then it was a clear violation of the rules of the SEC and it was the Municipal Commissioner's prerogative to take action against him.
Many political parties wrapped up all their functions early yesterday since they had already predicted the code of conduct would be enforced later in the day. 

Pawar lays the foundation stone of the project

The city BJP had decided to inaugurate a municipal school in Kothrud at 5 pm at the hands of party Rajya Sabha member Smriti Irani, but eventually the party held the event two hours before the scheduled time. Irani was also supposed to give an open speech after the event, but it was cancelled, said BJP sources. 

Sitting BJP corporator Manisha Ghate from Vijay Nagar (SP College area) also held the inauguration of Phulrani (children's train) in Saras Baug yesterday morning because of the likelihood of the announcement of the code of conduct for the civic poll by the SEC. 

The MNS also held a protest at the PMC against the increasing octroi rates on essential commodities on the Monday. "We can not hold such activities once the code of conduct is be declared. Therefore, we wrapped up such activities as early as possible," said MNS leader Ajay Shinde.    

Political experts said such tactics were employed to avoid the expenditure which will be audited in 'election expenditure' allotted by the SEC to each candidate after the code of conduct is declared. "The politicians think that such events which they hold at the last moment (before announcement of the code of conduct) will help them gain votes," political expert Prakash Pawar said. "But a party's victory depends on other factors and not such hasty inauguration of projects." 

Political scholar Anil Shidore said, "To hold such events just before the announcement of the code of conduct is the safest time for them (leaders) as the expenditure they make for such events will not be audited by the SEC and they will not face problems if they glorify their parties before the code kicks in."

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