CEC's whines on 'India Shining' ineffectual?

NEW DELHI: How much validity do chief election commissioner (CEC) TS Krishnamurthy's utterances on the 'India Shining' ad campaign have? For all practical purposes, nothing.

A government official explained that as a bureaucrat, which the CEC's post is, Krishnamurthy does not have any control over things that are beyond the Election Commission's jurisdiction.

"If the CEC is so upset about the government spending public money on self-publicity, then the EC should come out with a directive telling the government to stop doing so, instead of making public posturing," a senior government official said.

On Sunday, after taking over, Krishnamurthy told journalists that it was his 'personal' opinion that the government should not misuse public money on publicising itself through campaigns like 'India Shining,' which has already cost approximately Rs 800 million and such campaigns would be ramped up as the general election dates draw nearer.

If the CEC is appealing to the moral conscience of politicians, then it's a different story, but political observers point out that a serving bureaucrat ought not to air personal views, especially if the person concerned holds such an important post as that of a CEC, which has been in the news for activism since the time the organisation had T N Seshan as the CEC in the mid-1990s.

The EC-framed model code of conduct, to be followed by political parties, including the government, only comes into effect about six weeks before the actual polling date(s). During this period, no important policy decisions can be taken as also no activity can be undertaken that can be construed as amounting to publicity for the government or any political party.

After the moral code of conduct comes into effect, the EC can take action against political parties and politicians or issue directives. However, the Press Trust of India quoted Prime Minister A B Vajpayee yesterday as saying, "That the government money is being misused is wrong. It is part of the government's duty that it should put its achievements before the people. The final decision is with the people."

The PM also added that what Krishnamurthy is saying is 'correct' from his viewpoint and what the government is doing is correct from its point of view.

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