Govt denies plans to curb Election Commission's powers

Stung by attacks from the opposition, the government Tuesday denied it planned to curb the Election Commission's powers to implement the model code of conduct during elections. A Group of Ministers (GoM) on corruption was only considering "state funding of elections", an official statement said. "The GoM has not made any recommendation to make the model mode of conduct statutory or to take it outside the purview of the election commission," the statement from the department of personnel, public grievances and pensions said. Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit out at the Congress, saying it was a party of "serial offenders" of the Election Commission's model code of conduct. "We will oppose weakening of the EC... the Congress doesn't like to be regulated by it," BJP leader Arun Jaitley said.
The government clarified that the GoM on corruption, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, had "state funding of elections" as one of its mandates. "The contents of the report are totally misconceived as there is no such move under contemplation of the government or the GoM," the government statement said. The GoM, in its last meeting Sep 30, considered a presentation by the secretary of the legislative department on the viability of alternatives on the question of state funding of elections. Mukherjee, in his reaction to the reports, said the issue of Election Commission's powers "has come up for the first time and there is nothing on the GoM's agenda". Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal and Corporate Affairs Minister M. Veerappa Moily concurred. "To my knowledge, there is no such thing on the agenda. As far as I understand, it was agreed that once the elections are over, there will be an all-party consultation on the issue about electoral reforms which are being pushed by the Election Commission," Khurshid said. Sibal said: "I am on the GoM and have not dealt with the issue and ... there is no such proposal." Moily, however, said the UPA government's decision will be "a considered" one as it has always supported the autonomy of the Election Commission. Congress leaders have run into trouble with the Election Commission in Uttar Pradesh after promising a quota in education and government jobs for Muslims. The election panel has objected to these statements and termed them as violation of the model code.


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