While the country cheers the announcement of the Bharat Ratna to cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, it might just put the ruling Congress-led UPA government in a bind.
An RTI activist has petitioned the Election Commission of India (ECI) on grounds that declaring India’s highest civilian honour for Tendulkar, a Congress-nominated Rajya Sabha MP, just ahead of the assembly elections in five states is a violation of the model code of conduct by the government.
Tendulkar was nominated to the upper house of Parliament by the UPA government in 2012.
Minister of state for planning and parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla on November 12 had said that Tendulkar was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, as Congress president Sonia Gandhi was keen on it.
“It was not my idea to have Sachin in Rajya Sabha. I was thinking that veterans such as Ravi Shastri or Sunil Gavaskar would be recommended but Sonia Gandhi asked me to talk to Sachin,” Shukla had said.
“I told her that he’s still playing, but she insisted that at least I discuss it with him.”
Now, Right to Information (RTI) activist Devashish Bhattacharya has argued in his petition to the ECI that since Tendulkar is a Congress-nominated Rajya Sabha MP, honouring him with the Bharat Ratna can influence his fans who are also voters in the five states facing elections – Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.
Since the Congress did not take permission from the poll watchdog before announcing the award, it is a violation of the model code of conduct, Bhattacharya has said.
The model code prohibits any announcement by the government which could electorally benefit the party in power or adversely impact others in the poll fray.
The ECI says a decision on the petition will be taken in a few days, after holding legal consultations.
Already, four complaints made by the Congress against the BJP for model code violation are pending before the commission.