Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari on Monday said the government would provide an explanation to the Election Commission of India over the recently announced direct cash transfer scheme.
"If the Election Commission has asked the government for a clarification or
for some sort of an explanation, I am sure that the appropriate part of the government would provide that information to the Election Commission. Suffice to say since there seems to be a formal communication process which is underway, it would not be appropriate for me to second guess as to what the answer is," Tewari told mediapersons outside Parliament.
"But if I was to recollect correctly, I think the former finance minister in his budget speech on the 16th of March 2012, para-23, 24, 25, 26, if I remember correctly had possibly dealt extenso with the entire issue of cash transfers. I think there was also some press release by the government on the 28th of September 2012 on the same issue. So, therefore while I am not second guessing what the government would like to tell the Election Commission in this regard, but there seems to be a certain amount of work which has been done in the past," he added.
Tewari, however, used the occasion to take potshots at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), asking it to make its position clear on the direct cash transfer scheme.
"But the more relevant and germane question is which I think is the political question, which the BJP should answer that why are they scared of cash transfers. The Bharatiya Janata Party should make its position clear on cash transfers. Are they for cash transfers or are they against cash transfers?" asked Tewari.
"Do they want that money of the people should go directly into the hands of the people or they do not want the money of the people to go to the people? That is the germane issue and I think the Bharatiya Janata Party needs to reply to the people of this country as to where do they stand on this particular question," he added.
The Election Commission, which has conveyed its unhappiness to the government over announcement of its direct cash transfer scheme, has sought a report on the issue by Monday evening.
The Election Commission has in a strongly worded letter to cabinet secretary Ajit Seth expressed its unhappiness over the timing of the announcement by the Centre, and said it could have been avoided in view of the Gujarat assembly polls later this month.
Senior BJP leaders, led by Lal Krishna Advani, had moved the Election Commission earlier on Friday to protest against the government's decision to announce the direct cash transfers scheme meant to replace subsidies for below-poverty line (BPL) families as well as other beneficiaries.
The BJP petitioned the Election Commission of India, and asked it to direct the government to 'withdraw' the announcement till the completion of the election process in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Advani after the meeting said that the BJP conveyed its concern to the Election Commission that the government should not make such announcements once election dates have been declared for it will have an impact on the upcoming polls and influence the voters.
"The cash transfer scheme that was announced a few days ago should be for the entire country, but they should have excluded the states where elections are due to be held. This is to be implemented for January 1 next year, but if you make the announcement earlier it will benefit the ruling party at the Centre," he added.
Gujarat goes to polls in two phases on December 13 and 17 and the model code is in force in the state. Incidentally, four of the 51 districts in which the cash transfer scheme is to be implemented from January 1 fall in Gujarat.
The government earlier on Tuesday furnished the outline of its ambitious direct cash transfer scheme, with finance minister P Chidambaram terming it as a big 'game changer'.
According to the government, almost Rs. 3,20,000 crore cash transfer scheme will be launched in stages and cover the entire country by the end of 2013.
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