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No Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra in poll-bound states till Dec 5, EC tells Centre

The Election Commission on Thursday asked the Union Government not to launch the proposed ‘Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra’ in the five poll-bound states where the Model Code of Conduct would remain in force till December 5.

The EC stopped the campaign in poll-bound Telangana, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh after the Congress opposed the BJP-led government’s plan to deploy bureaucrats of the ranks of joint secretary, director and deputy secretary as the “Rath Prabharis” for the “Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra”. A delegation of the Congress met the EC on Wednesday and demanded its intervention to stop the government from embarking on the Yatra in violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

Ashwani Kumar Mohal, the secretary of the EC, wrote to Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Thursday, conveying to him the commission’s order that the ‘yatra’ should not be taken up in the poll-bound states as well as in the Tapi constituency in Nagaland where a bye-election would also be held soon.

The EC on October 9 last announced the schedule of the assembly polls in the five poll-bound states as well as in the Tapi constituency of Nagaland.

Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh will go to polls between November 7 and 30 and the votes will be counted on December 3.

The state assembly elections are being perceived as the semi-finals before the next Lok Sabha elections, which will take place in April-May 2024.

“It has been brought to the notice of the commission that a letter has been circulated to the ministries for (the) nomination of senior officers as ‘District Rath Prabharis’ as special officers for the proposed ‘Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra’ starting from 20th November 2023,” the EC wrote to the Cabinet Secretary.

“…Commission has directed that the aforesaid activities should not be taken in the constituencies where Model Code of Conduct is in force up till 5th December 2023,” it added.

The Ministry of Finance issued a circular recently asking for the nomination of bureaucrats as the “rath prabharis”, for “showcasing/celebration of achievements of the last nine years of the Government of India through the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra”. It triggered a political controversy, with the Congress accusing the BJP of trying to politicize the bureaucracy and using government officials for its own propaganda ahead of the elections.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the president of the Congress, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding the withdrawal of the circular. He also objected to a similar order issued by the Ministry of Defence asking the soldiers on leave to promote government schemes.

The EC’s order to drop the plan to launch the ‘yatra’, however, is limited to the five poll-bound states and the Tapi assembly constituency of Nagaland and will not come in the way of the government if it decides to go ahead with the plan in other areas of the country.

(Published 26 October 2023, 16:19 IST)

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