Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has been severely reprimanded by the Election Commission for violating the Model Code of Conduct. The censure was a sequel to Pawar announcing an economic package for sugar mills after the declaration of UP Assembly elections.
In a strongly worded communique to the Cabinet Secretary, EC has maintained that there had been a “ deliberate violation” of the Code in the sugar mills case. “ Keeping in view the fact that it is the second violation by Pawar, it has been decided to reprimand him for this lapse,” the order read.
Significantly, the EC order has alluded that Cabinet Secretary’s clarifications and Pawar’s reply to the notice "not only confirm, but also strengthen its apprehension about serious repercussions for the future if such an approach is to continue".
The Commission’s order has mooted a set of suggestions to be followed before announcing various schemes or plans when Model Code of Conduct is in force. “Issue clear guidelines to all Ministries and Departments for seeking prior clearance/ approval of the Commission before making any such announcement having a bearing on the election in any State or Union Territory", it said.
The panel supported the Cabinet Secretary’s suggestion that all such schemes would undergo prior screening in his office before being sent for the EC’s prior approval. This would strengthen the mechanism, the order said.
Referring to media reports on the package issue which was earlier considered by the CCEA, the EC order said: “It clearly confirms that substantive political mileage has been derived by communicating to the media the details of the said scheme and subsequently through the statements of Pawar.”
Expressing it’s displeasure, the EC further said: "At this stage, the proposal to seek the panel’s prior permission for the said package is a mere formality as the Commission has been presented with a fait accompli."