Chandigarh/New Delhi: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to ask its officials in the state "to act within the parameters of their constitutional brief" ahead of the Jan 30 assembly elections.
Reacting to this, Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi said he would write to the chief minister giving his views on the issue.
In a strongly worded statement, Badal said: "(The election officials in Punjab) should treat the observance of the model code of election conduct as their primary task. No should over-step their constitutional mandate."
"There is a difference between enforcing the model code of conduct for a free and fair poll on the one hand, and bringing the whole state to the brink of an administrative paralysis and developmental standstill, on the other. I have to appeal to the CEC to issue necessary directions to its officials to respect this crucial line," Badal said.
Badal`s spokesman said in Chandigarh that the chief minister "politely reminding the Election Commission officials" noted: "Even during the election code period, there is a democratically elected and constitutionally accountable government in the state, whose primary responsibility it is to maintain peace and law and order and to ensure smooth good governance for the benefit of the state and its people."
Badal said that "unfortunately the manner in which the EC officials were taking their decisions is causing confusion about the lines of administrative control in the state and this can have negative impact on the morale and efficiency of the law enforcing machinery. And that can be dangerous for peace and law and order".
In New Delhi, Quraishi said: "We will write to the chief minister and tell him what our views are."
"We are writing to them explaining what exactly is we should be doing and what they should be doing" he said to a TV news channel.
Badal also pointed out that "mischievous and irresponsible elements can take advantage of the prevailing confusion to create conditions of violence in the state. This must not be dismissed lightly and the EC officials must respect its own duty to refrain from doing anything that affects the morale of the administrative machinery. It (EC) must respect that the responsibility for maintenance of law and order and routine governance rests with the government of the state."
The chief minister said that he believed that the CEC would understand and appreciate the concern of the state government. "There is need for the EC officials to act with constitutional restraint," he said.
Showing his "extreme concern", Badal said that he had been "forced to point this out because the persistent interference of these officials even in the day to day affairs of governance, which was causing major and needless inconvenience to the common man".
He pointed out to the decision of state election officials on the issue of carrying legitimate cash as "a decision which they themselves had to partially revoke within 48 hours".