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Politicians feel hamstrung by the electoral Model Code of Conduct


P. Chidambaram Finance Minister

Bangalore: The electoral Model Code of Conduct, issued by the Election Commission of India, which came into effect after the Lok Sabha polls were announced, has come in for severe criticism from diverse political groups.

The model code is a document of six pages that relates to issues like general conduct of the polls, rallies, meetings, the conduct of the party in power (federally or the Centre), new announcements by the governments, etc. 

Political parties are claiming that the code has affected the over-all functioning of the governments and has  virtually brought them to a standstill.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram who was critical of the code  asserted, "A slew of programmes  which require spending have slowed down. I don't think this kind of clampdown on all activities is  justified.. normal activity of the government should carry on.."

The fact that the election process spans 72 days, nine phases  and thus making it  extremely lengthy period for a government to hold on to programmes to  announce or implement them. The model code  prohibits the government of the day from making any announcements which may influence the voters in favour of the party  in power. 

Says Shantaram Naik, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice, "It is understood that the EC goes on adding items without any proper consultation with the political parties which makes  such additions  illegal. It tends to confuse the political parties."

The official was forthright when he suggested that the model code should be scrapped and all electoral offences should be dealt with under the existing statutes.  Aspects like public meetings and other related matters only should be dealt with under Article  324 (EC's powers)," Naik said.

Some political leaders have even been impacted by model code at a personal level.
A case was registered  against Shahnawaz Husain, BJP MP, for attending a marriage function. Says Shahnawaz Husain, "Myself  attending a wedding was interpreted as participating in a meeting. It has become difficult to attend religious gatherings and inviting people has become a problem as that too can be accounted for in candidate's cost."

Even state  chief ministers have vented their ire over code. Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal,  attacked the EC, "The bizarre code prevents any new development work.  After we  took over, the panchayat elections were held followed by the assembly polls and municipal elections and now it is the Lok Sabha polls. How can we carry on the development? A way has to be found out. I am not criticising anybody. I attend office but there is no work. I feel guilty and thus saying all this."

Mincing   no words, J. Jayalalitha, chief minister of Tamil Nadu, said, "When the elections are on, the EC has been issuing strict directives that paralyse functioning of the duly elected government... even if we want to issue a small order, we have to seek the permission  of the EC. This is against democracy."

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