The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Model code of conduct stalls NDA book release

New Delhi, Oct. 10: The Election Commission today thwarted the NDA government’s bid to release a biography of Ram Manohar Lohia, saying it violated the panel’s model code of conduct.

NDA strategists hit upon the idea of a book on the late socialist icon to blunt criticism that the BJP-led government only propagated the views of Sangh parivar ideologues such as Veer Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar.

After announcing the poll dates for Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram on Monday, the commission issued guidelines for a model code of conduct for parties and candidates.

“Issue of advertisement at the cost of the public exchequer in newspapers and other media and the misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided,” it said.

The last-minute cancellation of today’s function left several ministers furious, most of all defence minister George Fernandes, who was to release the book authored by Mastram Kapoor and published under the Builders of Modern India series.

Railway minister Nitish Kumar, food minister Sharad Yadav and minister of state for agriculture Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav were to be the guests of honour and information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was slated to preside over the function.

An invitation card printed and distributed by the I&B ministry had said the book would be released at the Press Information Bureau conference hall at 4.40 pm today. Sources said the ministry consulted the poll panel, which denied permission to the ministers to use the government premises.

To circumvent the commission, Fernandes wanted to shift the venue to Patna. The Samata Party leader, along with all central ministers from Bihar, is in Patna to attend the foundation stone-laying ceremony of an AIIMS branch by Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat tomorrow. But Prasad pointed out that Laloo Prasad Yadav would steal the limelight. Not inviting Laloo was also out of the question as it would rake up another controversy. So the plan to release the biography in Patna was abandoned.

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