Following complaint by lawyer, ECI wrote to Goa Chief Secretary asking for any such proposals to be deferred

Acting on complaints over the Manohar Parikkar government's move to induct its candidate Alina Saldanha into the running for the June 2 Cortalim Assembly constituency by-election, the Election Commission on Friday wrote to the Goa Chief Secretary to ask the government to defer any such proposals till the election was over, as it could disturb the level playing field.

Following a complaint from an activist lawyer, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S. Kumaraswamy on Friday wrote to Chief Secretary Sanjay Srivatsava, to request the government to defer the plans of induction, if any. The copies of the letter have been marked to Secretary to Goa Governor and to the ECI.

Advocate Aires Rodrigues on Friday filed a petition with the CEO against the proposed induction of Ms. Saldanha, wife of late Minister Mathany Saldanha in the Goa Cabinet ahead of the by-election.

However, undeterred by the complaint, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said Ms. Saldanha would be inducted in the Cabinet on Tuesday regardless.

“I have a right under the Constitution of India to induct a Minister. It is my prerogative. Provided, she/he has to get elected to the Goa Assembly within six months,” Mr. Parrikar told media persons at Raj Bhavan on Friday after the swearing-in ceremony of Governor Bharat Vir Wanchoo.

Ms. Saldanha, a teacher by profession, will contest Cortalim by-election. The seat has been vacated by the sudden death of her husband on the 12th day of his induction as Minister. Ms. Saldanha earlier this week formally joined the BJP.

Mr. Rodrigues stated that the induction would be an obvious step to sway the voters with such a lure that would run contrary to the established norms for free and fair elections, besides being contrary to the Model Code of Conduct.

Mr. Parrikar, while responding to queries from presspersons, further said: “You have to influence the voters when you are contesting elections. What are election manifestos for? Only thing is that one should not take undue advantage. Induction of a Minister is a Constitutional right of a Chief Minister.”

In his letter addressed to State Chief Secretary, Mr. Kumaraswamy said he had received a representation from a High Court lawyer complaining about an alleged proposal to induct Ms. Saldanha, a prospective contesting candidate of the ruling party in the Council of Ministers prior to the election while the election code of conduct had been announced for the by-election.

The letter further said: “In my opinion, the alleged proposal, if any, [intends] tends to project a contesting candidate, which would have the effect of disturbing the level playing field Therefore, it is requested that the matter may kindly be apprised to the government for deferment of such cases if any till the by-poll is over.”

Earlier in the day, Joint Chief Electoral Officer Narayan Navti had confirmed that they received the petition and that they would consult the Chief Election Commissioner before taking any decision.

“We will approach the State government regarding the petition. Since Ms. Saldanha has still not filed her nomination to contest the by-polls, we cannot call her a candidate,” Mr. Navti said.