Maharashtra govt cries foul over code of conduct for local body elections

  • Surendra Gangan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 18, 2016 23:03 IST

The state government wants the code of conduct announced by the State Election Commission (SEC) —for the upcoming elections in 212 municipal councils governing small cities — to be reconsidered.

The elections will be held between November 27 and December 8. The government has decided to write to the SEC. Their main concern: The code of conduct (which prevents the government from taking or announcing decisions that would influence voters) will remain in force in most parts of the state for the next five months — back-to back elections will be held in this period in urban and rural local government bodies.

Almost all the ministers raised strong objections during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. They claimed the code of conduct will largely affect the development works in their constituencies, especially in areas where no elections are scheduled.

“We are not against the restrictions on political activities during the code of conduct, but the restrictions on development works are uncalled for. The restrictions will be in place for the next five to six months. This will not allow us to spend on ongoing projects and there is a possibility of more than 50% of the budgetary allocation remaining unspent,” parliamentary affairs minister Girish Bapat said.

The elections to be held in for council and nagar panchayat in four phases until January 8, 2017, will have the code of conduct in place for 82 days. Officials from the SEC said the election was chalked out according to existing norms under four different laws. “We have already clarified seven districts with less than four wards going for elections will have no code of conduct in force outside the wards. We had informed the chief secretary of Maharashtra in January about the dates of the completion of the terms of civic bodies and the probable dates for voting. The government should have chalked out its timetable for the development works accordingly,” an official from the SEC said.

Bapat said the government was seeking the opinion of experts before approaching the SEC, requesting it to reconsider the jurisdiction of the code of conduct.

“Why should the restrictions be imposed in areas that don’t have elections? The code of conduct should be restricted to wards where elections will be held,” said another minister. “For instance, in Nagpur district, only 1.5 lakh voters will vote for the council and nagar panchayat elections to be held on January 8 in the last phase. But the entire district, with a population of 39 lakh, will be under the code of conduct for about three months.”

As a direct effect of the code of conduct, the state government had to discontinue its ongoing campaign to celebrate the second anniversary of the Fadnavis government. “Except for the two districts, we have stopped all print, television, radio and outdoor advertisement campaigns that began on October 13. In Mumbai and Thane, the advertisements are restricted to local newspapers. We have also sought more clarification from the SEC on the areas under the influence of the code of conduct,” said an official from the publicity department of the government.

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