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Govt seeks guidance on spirit of poll code

Feb. 15: Basking in the shine of a publicity splurge, the government cannot make up its mind on the “spirit” of the model code of conduct.

Information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has suggested that the Election Commission should consult all political parties and specify when the spirit of the model code of conduct would come into force.

“So far, there are no guidelines on the issue. All parties in power at the Centre and states have been highlighting their achievements through advertisements,” the minister said in Patna today.

Responding to chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy’s appeal to political parties to observe the “spirit” of the model code of conduct even before polls are announced, the minister said it was a “larger issue”.

“If the EC feels that it is necessary, it should lay down a norm after speaking to all parties and specify since when this spirit has to be observed, one month, two months or six months before the announcement of polls,” Prasad said.

“Guidelines should also be laid down specifying the period before the announcement of date of elections when the parties in governments should stop such publicity campaigns,” he said.

“There is nothing wrong with the NDA government advertising its achievements,” the minister added in response to the controversy surrounding the timing of the India Shining campaign.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also defended his government’s advertisement blitz, estimated to cost Rs 450 crore, following Krishnamurthy’s plea.

The commission has issued instructions to chief electoral officers in the states to strictly enforce the code once it comes into effect.

“Ministers and other authorities shall not sanction grants or make payments out of discretionary funds from the date elections are announced. Parties in power should scrupulously avoid issuing advertisements at the cost of public exchequer in newspapers and other media,” the code of conduct states.

In an oblique reference to Doordarshan, it says: “There should be no misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news.”

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