Election Commission relaxes poll code for Maharashtra to begin drought relief
Election Commission relaxes election code for Maharashtra to begin drought reliefUpdated: May 07, 2019, 12:43 IST
The Election Commission of India (EC) has relaxed the model code of conduct in Maharashtra, allowing the government to take up relief work in areas reeling under drought across large parts of the state. “The commission has no objections to the proposal, in view of public interest involved,” EC said in a communication to the state election commission on Sunday.
Elections in all 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra were completed on April 29, after which chief minister Devendra Fadnavis wrote to the EC asking if the election code could be relaxed. When in force, the model code of conduct prevents the government from taking decisions that would influence voters. It is done to ensure a level playing field for contesting parties. The relaxation of rules allows the state to provide relief measures to affected areas and lets ministers visit and review the work.
The EC, however, made it clear that government staff who will be involved in counting of votes later this month cannot accompany any minister who tours drought-hit areas. Between October and November 2018, the state government declared drought in more than half the villages in 151 tehsils and 318 revenue circles, making them eligible for relief packages and benefits.
With the onset of summer, water sources are drying up and fodder scarcity is becoming more severe. In his letter to the EC, Fadnavis cited the example of a similar situation in 2009, when the government had asked the EC for a relaxation in the Model Code of Conduct. He sought permission for inviting tenders, assessment and finalisation of work orders, including for renovation and supply of medical equipment to rural hospitals and village-level works. He also sought permission for state ministers to hold meetings in drought affected areas so that relief work can be expedited.
Last week, the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, who has been critical of Fadnavis’s his handling of the drought situation in the state, taunted him for the delay in getting the EC;’s approval. “During my time, I would just inform Election Commission officials and they would give me permission within three or four hours. Even they are citizens of this country and understand the gravity of the problem,” Pawar had said.