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Politicos want to break this code

Prominent leaders in the city like RR Patil and Raj Thackeray are fuming over what they feel is the Election Commission's unnecessary zeal in enforcing the model code of conduct

With the BMC elections fast approaching, the state's Election Commission seems to have its hands full -- not in making arrangements for a smooth polling process, but in keeping a watchful eye over errant politicians who seem all-too-ready to violate the code of conduct.

Irked: MNS chief Raj Thackeray. pic/pradeep dhivar

The state election commissioner, retired IAS officer Neela Satyanarayana, is facing the ire of politicians who are quick to take offence after being rapped for or prohibited from attending events. The first leader to pass scathing remarks against her was MNS Chief Raj Thackeray, who questioned the commission's decision to let off Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar after he dishonoured the code recently in Pune. Now, Home Minister R R Patil is saying that the code of conduct is 'crossing its limits'.

Pawar Junior and Patil are not the only leaders who were hauled up for not following the code. The code prevented Chavan from attending the 92nd Akhil Bhartiya Natya Sammelana in Sangli last Saturday.

"Turning down the CM's request, we told him that the district collector of Sangli has conveyed to us that the state government has donated Rs 80 lakh for the sammelana. So I asked him not to be present," Satyanarayana said. "When he sought permission again to attend the event as a spectator, I told him it would not be proper for a person of his stature to attend it merely as a spectator."

Patangrao Kadam, however, invited the ire of the commission as he attended the sammelana as its president, without intimating Satyanarayana of his involvement.

Angry Raj
Meanwhile, Raj Thackeray's remarks have definitely rubbed the commission the wrong way. Satyanarayana reminded him that his party had signed an undertaking during registration, in which it had assured the commission that it would respect it and abide by all the rules set by it. The commission also warned the party of a possible disqualification for his outburst.

Reacting to the commission's rap yesterday, Thackeray asked sarcastically if the commission would be as willing to accept his apology as it had been after Pawar violated the code. "The election commission should behave as per its status," the MNS chief said.

"Home Minister R R Patil called me up recently, saying that the code of conduct was crossing its limits. I assured him that this was not to harass anyone, but to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner," maintained Satyanarayana. She also revealed that Patil had told her that the government has certainly made a mistake by enacting laws related to the code of conduct.

"Our conversation could not be completed, and Patil told me he would call me back, but he didn't. I told his private secretary to convey to him that it is not the government that has enacted laws on the code of conduct, but the Election Commission itself," said the irate commissioner.

Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad and BMC Commissioner Subodh Kumar also met Satyanarayana yesterday. The senior officials' visit to the Commission's office was in connection with a complaint filed by the BJP against a presentation made on the coastal road to the CM. In course of the meeting, they clarified that it was just a presentation, and no policy announcement had been made by the CM. The commission agreed to examine the written report submitted by them. 

No liquor, please
Satyanarayana also expressed concern over the reports that liquor is being distributed to woo voters in the state. "It's agonising to learn that liquor was being distributed among voters by the candidates. Complaints were also being made about voters being sent on pilgrimages," said the commissioner.

Instructions have already been given to seal the state border at entry points into the state from Gujarat, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh.

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