The government on Monday said it had not violated any election code of conduct in connection with its ambitious direct cash transfer scheme, as it was announced in the Budget speech by the then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
“This (direct cash transfer) is only an implementation of an announcement that has already been made,” Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said. He said the government believed it had neither directly nor indirectly violated the election code because the policy announcement was made way back in the Budget speech. Sibal said the government would file a detailed reply on the questions raised by the Election Commission on the issue.
The commission’s notice was among the issues discussed by the group of ministers on media on Monday.
The commission had yesterday 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.
In a letter to Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, the poll authority said the announcement could have been avoided in view of the Gujarat Assembly elections later this month.
Last week, Finance Minister P Chidamabaram and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had launched the Aadhaar- based direct cash transfer scheme at the Congress headquarters here and dubbed it as a “game changer”.
Cong, BJP in war of words
Meanwhile, the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday traded barbs over the government’s direct cash-transfer scheme after the Election Commission sought a reply from the Centre on the timing of the announcement.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the government would provide information to the EC, and asked BJP to make clear its stance on the scheme.
“BJP should make its position clear on cash transfers. Are they for it or are they against it?” Tewari said. “If EC has asked the government for a clarification, I am sure the government would provide that,” Tewari said.
BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad hit back by questioning the Congress’ seriousness on the issue. “Is the Congress serious about it? Have they done their homework well?” Prasad said.