NATIONAL

Election Commission censures Jogi, Amarinder for using State aircraft

New Delhi Dec. 24. The Election Commission today censured the former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi, and the Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, for "blatant violation" of the model code of conduct in using the State Government aircraft during the recent Assembly elections in the four States.

While deprecating their "undesirable conduct" for achieving "partisan ends," the Commission directed the Congress to either reimburse from its own funds or recover it from Mr. Jogi the total costs for the seven flights undertaken by him and twice by the party president, Sonia Gandhi, in the State aircraft.

The Commission gave a similar direction in another case involving the Punjab Chief Minister for using the State aircraft for the Madhya Pradesh elections.

Taking a serious note of the violation of the model code by Mr. Jogi, Mr. Singh and Ms. Gandhi, the Commission had issued two show-cause notices on November 18 and 26 to the Congress as to why recognition as a national party should not be withdrawn.After considering the replies, the Commission, however, said it was "reluctant to take the extreme step of suspending or withdrawing the recognition of Congress as a national party."

According to the Commission, in both the cases, the poll panel was inclined to take a "lenient view" of the matter having regard to the totality of the facts and circumstances and repeated assurances by the party that the code would be strictly followed. On the use of the Chhattisgarh Government helicopter by Ms. Gandhi from Chennai to Sriperumbudur and back on October 10 last, the Commission said the explanation of the Congress that it was done on the advice of the SPG for security reasons to attend an official function might sound convincing from the point of view of the security of the person concerned."However, one fails to understand why the helicopter of the State of Chhattisgarh was used for such a flight from Chennai to Sriperumbudur in the State of Tamil Nadu. The security of Ms. Gandhi was the concern of the SPG and the Government of the State where she resided or which she visited."The Commission said that no explanation had been furnished by the Congress or Mr. Jogi on how the resources and property of the Chhattisgarh Government were or could be used for the benefit of Ms. Gandhi for a work "totally unconnected with the functioning of the State of Chhattisgarh."Pulling up Mr. Jogi, the Commission said that this was not possible "unless Mr. Jogi considered that the resources and the property of the State of Chhattisgarh formed a part of his own fiefdom which he could use according to his own whims and fancies."It noted that for a 20-minute flight from Chennai to Sriperumbudur, the helicopter had made a flight of five hours and 35 minutes from Raipur to Chennai and it took six hours and 55 minutes to make the return flight from Chennai to its base at Raipur.

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