The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll panel pulls plug on govt ads

New Delhi, Oct. 14 (PTI): The Election Commission today asked the Centre to stop issuing advertisements to mark the completion of four years by the NDA government, saying they represent a “clear violation” of the model code of conduct.

Similar directives were issued to the governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram because it felt that advertisements at the cost of the exchequer gave an undue advantage to the party in power.

The election commission also directed the Ajit Jogi government in Chhattisgarh not to distribute free schoolbags with his photo embossed on them.

“With the announcement of elections on October 6, the model code of conduct came into force immediately. The display of such advertisements at the cost of the exchequer constitutes a clear violation of the code,” the commission told the government.

The campaign provided an “undue advantage” to the party in power and has the effect of “influencing” the voters in favour of the party in power, it said in a communication to the cabinet secretary and secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting.

The commission said in a letter to the chief secretaries of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Delhi that no advertisements with the objective of furthering the interests of the party in power should be issued in newspapers and electronic media at the cost of exchequer in these states.

The commission’s directive came a day after information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected the charge that the release of the advertisements to mark the completion of four years of the NDA government was in violation of the code.

The minister said they highlighted the achievements of the Centre and not of the states going to polls.

On the schoolbag issue in Chhattisgarh, the commission said it took the decision after taking into account a representation that the Congress government in the state was distributing free bags with Jogi’s photograph through its tribal welfare department.

The commission also directed the district administration in the five states to seize official vehicles used for election campaign.

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