The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Moral slur on Shining

New Delhi, Feb. 8: Within hours of taking charge at Nirvachan Sadan, new chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy cautioned the government against using taxpayers’ money to fund its advertisement blitz before the Lok Sabha polls.

“My personal view is as far as possible taxpayers’ money should not be used for electoral advantages,” said Krishnamurthy at his first news conference this morning.

His predecessor, the “firm and blunt” J.M. Lyngdoh, as Krishnamurthy described him, quit office yesterday. Krishnamurthy signalled his resolve to stick to the rulebook as meticulously as Lyngdoh.

“I take this opportunity to appeal to the political parties in power and in the Opposition to keep in mind the spirit of the model code of conduct. At present, we have no authority to enforce it,” he said.

“But we will have the authority to interfere from the day we announce the election schedule.”

The model code of conduct comes into effect the day elections are announced.

The Vajpayee government has spent over Rs 200 crore on the ongoing “India Shining” campaign on television. Apart from this, different ministries and departments are putting out their own advertisements. The total cost of all this is estimated at Rs 450 crore.

Krishnamurthy made it clear that the commission does not have the authority at present to restrain the government but indicated that that the Centre was violating the “spirit” of the code of conduct since the 13th Lok Sabha had been dissolved.

“I would appeal to the political parties to keep in mind the interest of holding good elections,” he said.

In response to Krishnamurthy’s statement, a senior government source said: “First of all the chief election commissioner made it very clear when he mentioned about taxpayers’ money that it was his personal opinion. So this is not the view of the Election Commission.

“Second, the code of conduct comes into force only when the elections are announced. As of now, we have no idea when the polls are to be held. Does he expect all government activity to stop because of this'”

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