EC withdraws nod to KCR govt on disbursal under Rythu Bandhu scheme for MCC violation
New Delhi: The Election Commission of India said Monday that it was withdrawing permission for Telangana’s K. Chandrashekar Rao government to distribute funds under its Rythu Bandhu farmer welfare scheme, citing “violation of the Model Code of Conduct [MCC]” — guidelines that regulate a candidate’s behaviour once an election is announced.
The development comes a day after Telangana Finance Minister T. Harish Rao announced that his government would disburse funds under the Rythu Bandhu scheme by Monday. The scheme, which is also known as the Farmer’s Investment Support Scheme, promises Rs 5,000/acre every crop season for inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, labour, and other investments.
In its letter dated Monday and sent to the chief electoral officer (CEO) of Telangana, the Election Commission has called Harish Rao’s announcement a “clear violation of Model Code of Conduct” and conditions laid down by it while granting “no objection” in 2018. It said therefore that the permission granted through a letter dated 25 November “for disbursement of Rabi season installment under the ongoing Rythu Bandhu scheme during the currency of MCC, shall stand withdrawn immediately and there shall be no disbursement under the scheme till the Model Code of Conduct in the state of Telangana ceases to apply in all its form”.
The EC also ordered a compliance report from the state election officer to be submitted to it “by 15:00 Hours on 27th November, 2023”.
Telangana is scheduled to vote for its 119-member assembly on 30 November.
The EC’s letter Monday came on the back of a letter that the Telangana CEO sent to the EC over Rao’s announcement. According to media reports, Rao had announced Sunday that his government would disburse money under the scheme by Monday, “even before farmers complete their breakfast and tea”.
‘Disturbed level playing field’
In its letter to the Telangana CEO, the EC said that over the past five years, the installment for the rabi crop season had been disbursed between October and January and that there was neither any fixed date for this under the scheme nor “any special significance of disbursement in the month of November”.
The commission also cited the guidelines that it had set down in 2018 for the disbursement of funds under the scheme. These conditions were adding no new beneficiary, having no publicity or no public function for the disbursement, involving no political functionaries in the process, and “as far as possible” transferring the money directly to the beneficiary without distributing cheques.
“The Govt. of Telangana vide its letter no. 6088/Agri.II (1)/2023 dated 18.11.2023 had informed the Commission that the disbursement of Rythu Bandhu assistance is proposed from 24th November, 2023, during the MCC period in the ongoing election process in full compliance with the conditions mentioned in the Commission’s letter dated 5th October, 2018,” the EC’s letter Monday stated.
It further said that the Commission in a letter dated 25th November had “given no objection for disbursement of Rythu Bandhu assistance in the State of Telangana with conditions that the Govt. of Telangana will follow the instructions contained in the Commission’s direction vide its letter dated 5th October, 2018 and no DBT assistance will be affected during silence period and poll day in the State.”
It also cited Part VII of the Model Code of Conduct to say that from the time elections are announced by the commission, “Ministers and other authorities shall not announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof”.
“The Commission has observed that Sh T. Harish Rao, Minister of Finance and Heath & Family Welfare, Govt. of Telangana who is also a contesting candidate sponsored by the BRS Party from 33 Siddipet Assembly Constituency in ongoing GE to LA Telangana 2023, a Star campaigner of the Party and also the Finance Minister of Telangana, has not only violated the provisions of MCC contained in Para VII of Model Code of Conduct but also conditions laid down as above by publicising the release under the scheme, and thereby disturbed the level playing field in the ongoing election process,” stated the EC’s letter.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)News Related