New Delhi: Even as the Election Commission (EC) Tuesday expressed its concern over the government's announcement of direct cash transfer and asked it to put it on hold in poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the Congress said it was not a snub to the government.
The poll panel, in a strongly-worded letter to Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth Tuesday, said it "expects that such announcements during Model Code of Conduct operation are avoided".
In its letter to the cabinet secretary, put on its website, the EC said the government's answer giving details of the Aadhaar-based Direct Cash Transfer scheme was "silent with regard to the justification sought by the commission as to the necessity of announcement of the scheme at this juncture, when the model code of conduct is in operation in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh".
The EC said it was not going into the merits of the policy decision but its concern was to see if such an announcement would have any impact on the elections and "whether it will disturb the level-playing field".
It said that while "taking into consideration the chronology of milestones of the scheme, the commission is of the considered opinion that the aforesaid announcement was avoidable during the currency of the election process going by the letter and spirit of the Model Code of Conduct.
"The Commission directs that all follow up and consequential steps towards implementation of the scheme in respect of the four districts in Gujarat and the two districts in Himachal Pradesh, which are proposed to be covered in the first phase of implementation of the scheme, shall be kept in abeyance till completion of the election process in the two states."
Reacting to the poll panel decision, Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko dismissed suggestions that the poll panel had snubbed the government.
He said it was not a slap, a snub or even a negative comment. "It is not an adverse comment," Chacko said and added that the government's stand had not been questioned by the EC.
He said the Congress "respects" the EC's "well considered opinion" but that does not mean that the government had done anything wrong.
The EC had Sunday conveyed its unhappiness to the government over announcement of its direct cash transfer scheme when the model code was in force in poll-bound Gujarat.
The Planning Commission Monday provided details of the scheme and claimed that nothing new has been announced by the government.
The Gujarat assembly polls are to be held Dec 13 and 17. The Himachal Pradesh polls were held last month. Votes cast in both elections will be counted Dec 20.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had complained to the poll panel about the announcement.