MINISTERS, MAYOR COMMUTE IN GOVT CARS TO POLL PANEL OFFICE FOR PARTY’S PURPOSE
By bappaditya paul
BENGAL’S RULING PARTY the Trinamul Congress landed in a soup on Thursday after some senior ministers of the state Cabinet used government cars fitted with red beacon to commute to the State Election Commission (SEC) in violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that is in force for the civic polls.
Panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee and education minister Partha Chatterjee were part of two separate Trinamul delegations that went to the SEC today to demand the extension of voting hours and relaxation in MCC to facilitate commissioning of public projects in rural areas. Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee also used his official car.
The notified voting hours, for the KMC polls on 18 April and the elections in another 91 civic bodies on 25 April, is 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Trinamul wants this to be extended until 5 pm so that voters can exercise their franchise without haste. The poll panel has convened an all-party meeting on Saturday to discuss the demand.
While Mr Mukherjee, along with his Cabinet colleague Aroop Biswas, the Mayor, Trinamul MPs Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Hazi Nurul, MLA Swarnakamal Saha and others met the state poll panel chief in the morning; Mr Chatterjee went in the afternoon.
Following this, the Left was quick to complain that the ministers and the Mayor had violated MCC by using government vehicles to commute to the SEC for party’s purpose.
“We have complained to the state election commissioner and has sought to know whether this is not a blatant violation of MCC by ministers,” CPI-M leader Robin Deb told reporters after meeting the poll panel chief Thursday afternoon.
The Panchayat minister however, declined that he had commuted in a government car. “My official car was parked outside the SEC office for some other reason and I did not commute in it while visiting the SEC. Besides its red beacon was also put off,” Mr Mukherjee said over the phone in the evening.
“Let them show video clippings wherein I am seen travelling to the SEC in my official car.”
State election commissioner S R Upadhaya, on the other hand, said that the Left has not lodged any written complain. “They have complained verbally but unless it is in writing, how could we act?” he asked.
Mr Upadhaya clarified that Section VII (i) (a) and (b) of the MCC prohibits the use of official cars for party’s purpose by ministers or a Mayor.
“Section (b) in particular, stipulates that: Any official vehicle on duty including municipal vehicle, machinery and personnel shall not be used for furtherance of the interest of the party in power; this restriction will apply to Central government or state government ministers also,” he said.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 27 March 2015.)