CEC says model code is an instrument to ensure that level playing field is not disturbed during polls
The model code of conduct (MCC), a set of legally binding dos and don’ts to the Union/State governments, political parties and candidates, which is operational with immediate effect with the announcement of general election schedule by the Election Commission, has revived the debate on the merit of its enforcement from the date of announcement rather than the date of notification of the poll schedule.
It was in 1991 that the Election Commission under T.N. Seshan first codified the MCC on the basis of an agreement with political parties.
However, the Commission’s decision to implement it from the date of announcement of the poll schedule has been a matter of disagreement.
Political parties have been arguing that the MCC should come into force only from the date of notification, particularly if a multiphase election tends to be long. For instance, in the latest case the gap between the date of announcement and notification for the first phase is nine days. The gap stretches to 43 days in the case of the last phase.
In a statement here, Shantaram Naik, Chairman of the Standing Committee of Parliament which had gone into the issue in August last year, expressed disappointment that the EC had chosen to ignore its recommendations to enforce the MCC from the date of notification.
A unique feature of the amended MCC, on the basis of a recent Supreme Court judgment, is that the manifestos of political parties should reflect the rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for implementing them. “Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled,” the modified MCC says.
Mr. Naik maintained that it is not practical for parties to spell out the rationale of all promises as it would mean that government budgets, Central and State, must indicate the allotments to be made for the promises that are proposed to be made in manifestos, which are announced long after the date of notifications.
Explaining the basic objective of the MCC, Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath told reporters: “The Election Commission would like to clarify once again that the model code is an instrument to ensure that the level-playing field is not disturbed during the course of elections... Any action which is taken by any authority will be examined with regard to these parameters.”
The MCC envisages that the Ministers shall not combine their official visit with electioneering work and shall not make use of the official machinery or personnel during the electioneering work; issue advertisements at the cost of the public exchequer for partisan coverage of political news to further the prospects of the party in power; announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof; make any promise of construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities; there shall be a total ban on the transfer of all officers/officials connected with the conduct of the election.