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Jogi locks horns with Lyngdoh
- EC’s model code of conduct leaves cm fuming

New Delhi, Oct. 31: Ajit Jogi today opened a second battlefront — he is already on a clash course with the Centre — by pitting himself against the Election Commission.

The Chhattisgarh chief minister met Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh at Nirvachan Sadan to vent his anger against the commission’s “unfair” directives to his government to ensure compliance with the model code of conduct. The code came into force in poll-bound Chhattisgarh on October 6.

Jogi was angry at the commission directives to his government to transfer the Jashpur and Jagdalpur district collectors, suspend distribution of school bags with his portrait and message to children and stop transferring government publicity hoardings to the Congress.

In a 10-page memorandum submitted to Lyngdoh, Jogi charged the commission with unilaterally acting against his government on the basis of “frivolous, false and fabricated” complaints by his BJP and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) rivals in the state. By not bothering to take the government’s version, the poll panel was guilty of denying “natural justice” to him, the Congress chief minister contended.

The commission’s action on the basis of his rivals’ complaint amounted to a “sheer violation of an axiom that constitutes the very basis of the judicial process — the principle of natural justice”, the bureaucrat-turned-politician said. While so doing, the poll panel also deprived children of the benefits of his government’s scheme to promote education.

Jogi said that if only he had been told about the poll panel’s objections, he would have gladly got his pictures removed from the bags so that the scheme that his government had started well before the model code came into force could continue. He also contended that his wife, Renu, had been distributing spectacles among needy tribal women for the past three years and did not start on the eve of the poll.

Defending the two collectors, he claimed they did not violate the poll code by accompanying him during his visits to the respective districts. His “Z-plus” security cover required that either the collector or the superintendent of police accompany him, he argued.

While Nirvachan Sadan appeared too “eager” to arrive at conclusions and act on complaints from the BJP’s Pramod Mahajan and NCP leaders, it was turning a blind eye to instances of code violation by the Centre through misuse of the official machinery and official media for campaign purposes, he alleged.

Specifying his complaint of violation of the model code against the BJP and the Centre, Jogi urged the commission to withhold permission for starting a 24-hour Doordarshan news channel.

Masquerading as “news”, the new channel would disseminate “Goebbelsian propaganda... The Election Commission cannot and should not allow these fascist ploys to be translated into reality. The EC should also take notice of the BJP’s communal campaign that violated the code”, he added.

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