The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Deputy denied PM’s flight right

New Delhi, Feb. 23: The Election Commission today rejected the home ministry’s request to allow deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to use Indian Air Force aircraft for election campaigning.

“The commission has said that the existing instruction will continue,” A.. Jha, the poll panel spokesperson, said at a news conference today. “Only the Prime Minister can use the aircraft.” Earlier, Jha had said the request had come from the home ministry.

The model code of conduct clearly states that only the Prime Minister can use the air force aircraft and he cannot extend the facility to any colleague. Even journalists are barred from travelling with the Prime Minister.

Anticipating the order, the BJP last week decided to hire an eight-seater plane for Advani.

During the last Assembly elections, then chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh had pulled up Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for using state aircraft for campaigning. The commission had threatened the party with derecognition and finally made it pay up for the service.

The commission iterated that it stood for strict implementation of the conduct code and maintained that any relaxation in Advani’s case would allow other top leaders like Sonia, the leader of the Opposition, to seek similar concessions.

Jha also described as “misleading” the reports in a section of the press, suggesting that top political leaders could now spend above the limit prescribed by the commission for electioneering.

“Our guidelines issued during previous elections are clear and unambiguous. Only travel expenses of the designated leaders of political parties would not be billed to the candidates. Candidates, however, will bear all other expenses,” Jha said.

According to the panel guidelines, registered and recognised political parties can designate 40 leaders and unregistered but recognised parties 20 leaders whose travel expenses would not be billed to them.

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