The Election Commission on Tuesday ticked off the Union government for announcing the implementation of Aadhar-based direct cash transfer scheme during election time in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and directed it to keep the process in abeyance in the two poll-bound states.
The three-member commission, in its meeting chaired by chief election commissioner VS Sampath, in its order stated that the government's announcement was "avoidable", keeping in mind the model code of conduct.
"Taking into consideration the chronology of milestones of the scheme, the commission is of the considered opinion that the announcement was avoidable during the currency of the election process," the EC stated in its order.
"The Commission further directs that all follow-up and consequential steps towards the implementation of the scheme in respect of the four districts in Gujarat and the two districts in Himachal Pradesh, which are proposed to be covered in the first phase of implementation of the scheme, shall be kept in abeyance till completion of the election process," the order further stated.
The EC said it had considered the government's response to its query on the issue carefully, but "it is silent with regard to the justification sought by the commission as to the necessity of announcement of the scheme at this juncture."
The EC order followed a complaint by the BJP against the government, in which it had said that the announcement an attempt to influence voters in the two states.
Last week, the government had announced that payouts towards pensions and scholarships will be directly transferred to bank accounts of beneficiaries in 51 districts spread across 15 states from January 1. This included four districts in Gujarat and two in Himachal Pradesh.
In its response to the EC order, the Congress said the commission had not snubbed the government, but merely asked it to delay its implementation. "It is not a slap, it is not a snub, not even a negative comment. ...The government stand is not being questioned by the EC," said party spokesperson PC Chacko.