Last week, the BJP had lodged a complaint with the EC, charging the UPA government of trying to "bribe" the voters in Gujarat. Referring to the Model Code of Conduct, the Opposition party pointed out that the Model Code of Conduct's Paragraph VII - Party in Power - (VI) (a) clearly bars the ruling party from announcing "financial grants in any form or promises thereof".
As for the government's averment that people will not be provided any new financial assistance under the direct cash transfer scheme, the BJP delegation said, "This is a weak defence seen in the backdrop of the packaging of the scheme in terms of promises and expectations of certain quantum of cash that will flow into every Aadhar registered beneficiary's bank account."
When the commission asked the Centre to explain why it had not waited for completion of the election process in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the government claimed that the scheme was announced by former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech earlier this year before the EC issued notification regarding the Assembly elections in the two states.
However, this argument did not cut much ice with the EC. The three-member panel met today and noted that the government's explanation "is silent with regard to the justification sought by the Commission as to the necessity of announcement of the scheme at this juncture, when the Model Code of Conduct is in operation in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh."
More or less agreeing with the BJP's charge that the announcement of the direct cash transfer scheme is a violation of the poll code, the EC said, "Taking into consideration the above chronology of milestones of the scheme, the Commission is of the considered opinion that the aforesaid announcement was avoidable during the currency of the election process going by the letter and spirit of the Model Code of Conduct."
The EC directed that "all follow up and consequential steps towards the implementation of the scheme in respect of the four districts in the State of Gujarat and the two districts in the State of Himachal Pradesh, which are proposed to be covered in the first phase of implementation of the scheme, shall be kept in abeyance till completion of the election process in these two States."