'Cash transfer scheme not violation of code of conduct'

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New Delhi, Dec 4: The Centre on Monday told the Election Commission (EC) that it did not violate the model code of conduct by announcing the direct cash transfer (DCT) scheme. In its reply to the poll panel which had earlier expressed its displeasure over the Centre's cash scheme announcement just ahead of the crucial Gujarat assembly elections, the government defended its move by saying the scheme had featured among the proposals made by former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech this year.

It also said that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) had issued a statement in Sept whereby it was stated that the Prime Minister had set up a mechanism for shifting to electronic cash transfers leveraging Aadhar. According to the Centre, both the announcements were made well before the model code of conduct for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections came into force on Oct 3. The commission is expected to announce it decision on Tuesday.

The Congress also used the occasion to slam the BJP. Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said they were yet to know about the stand of the principal Opposition party on the issue. Saying the Congress would respond to the EC appropriately, Tewari asked whether the BJP was opposed to the programme that he claimed would make the system transparent. He said while the Congress was anti-poverty, the BJP was anti-poor.

The Opposition party has been opposing the DCT announcement made last week by Union Ministers P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh. While the Congress leaders said the scheme was a game-changer, the BJP complained to the EC that the announcement was deliberately made ahead of the two-phased Gujarat polls starting on Dec 13 and hence was a violation of the model code of conduct. The party said out of the 51 districts that would benefit from the scheme, four is in Gujarat.

Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party was against the abolition of the public distribution system, which he claimed had done in states like Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. He hit back at Tewari, asking the latter to cite the reason for which the DCT scheme had failed to deliver in Rajasthan.

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