Election Commission has held Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar guilty of violating Model Code of Conduct in announcing Rs 850 crore relief package and export subsidy for sugar mills when the election process in UP was on.
In its order on Thursday, the EC has directed the Cabinet Secretary to "obtain" Pawar’s explanation by Satuday 7 pm "After reviewing the contents relating to Pawar’s press conference in Pune on March 26, it appears to be a prima facie case of violation of the Code," the panel observed.
For his part, Pawar has said that he would place the facts of the case before the EC "well in time".
An anguished Commission observed that not only the decisions about creation of buffer stock and export assistance for sugar were “already taken". But these were widely publicised in the media. "The Commission is deeply anguished at this incident of the violation of the Model Code of Conduct, as UP is one of the major sugar producing states. The announcement of subsidy to the sugar industry at this juncture amounts to disturbing the level playing field and a clear violation of the Code," the order said.
The EC expressed regrets that intended political mileage has already been derived by announcing the package. Directing its ire against the Centre for not adopting a uniform approach in such matters, the EC directed the Cabinet Secretary to issue “clear guidelines” to all ministries and Government departments to seek the panel’s prior "approval" before announcing schemes or projects having a direct bearing on the elections.
"This is the third such incident which has come to the EC’s notice. The Commission had taken a lenient view when Pawar had regretted violating the Code in September 2005 as it was the first case of violation," it reminded the government and added : “Lack of uniform approach is indicated by the instances in the past when the EC was approached at different stages prior to cabinet approval and after that," the order further said.