The Election Commission on Tuesday said the Centre could have avoided the announcement of its direct cash transfer scheme ahead of the assembly elections in Gujarat.
Showing its dissatisfaction with the government´s reply, the Election Commission said: "Centre could have avoided announcement during the Gujarat polls keeping in mind the letter and spirit of the poll code."
The Commission also directed the government to defer the implementation of the scheme in four districts of Gujarat and two in Himachal Pradesh till elections.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had complained that the time of the announcement of the direct cash transfer scheme violates the model code of conduct, which kicks in as soon as elections are announced and forbids contesting parties and candidates from making announcements that could influence voters in their favour.
However, the government, in its letter to the Commission said the scheme was announced months ago when former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented the last Union budget.
On Monday, defending the announcement of the scheme, information and broadcasting minister ManishTewari said: "If I was to recollect correctly, I think the former finance minister in his budget speech on the 16th of March 2012, para-23, 24, 25, 26, if I remember correctly had possibly dealt extenso with the entire issue of cash transfers."
"I think there was also some press release by the government on the 28th of September 2012 on the same issue," he said.
Gujarat goes to polls on Dec 13 and 17 and the direct cash transfer scheme is meant to be implemented from Jan 1.
Starting with 51 districts across the country, including four in Gujarat, the government plans to replace subsidized items with direct deposits in the bank accounts of beneficiaries.
However, only those with a Unique ID (UID) number and a bank account will be eligible for the cash transfers.