Top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday met the Election Commissioner to lodge their protest against the Centre's announcement of the direct cash transfer scheme ahead of Gujarat elections and demanded its withdrawal.
Led by party leader L K Advani and Leaders of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, the BJP delegation questioned the timing of the announcement and demanded its withdrawal to ensure free and fair elections in Gujarat.
The BJP delegation also handed over a memorandum to Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath for taking an appropriate decision so that the Centre's announcement does not influence the voting in Gujarat.
"We have discussed the issue. It was a good discussion. The Election Commission has assured us that all the issues raised by us will be taken care of before taking a proper decision in this regard," Advani told reporters after the meeting with the CEC.
In its memorandum handed over today, the BJP has urged the Election Commission to take serious note of the 'blatant violation' of the model code of conduct by the United Progressive Alliance by announcing the scheme.
Urging the EC to take immediate action, BJP said it is being done with the "deliberate intention of influencing the voters" in the ongoing election process in Gujarat.
"We request the Commission to direct the government to withdraw the announcement and defer it to an appropriate time after the completion of the election process in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh," the memorandum said.
Advani said, "The Election Commission's primary responsibility is to ensure free and fair elections. That is why they frame a code of conduct. The government should not make any announcement before or during elections that could influence voting or voters".
"The cash transfer scheme is for the entire country but the two states where elections are being held should have been excluded. If you make an announcement before the elections are due, the party in power at the Centre can benefit," he said.
Without going into the merits of the cash transfer scheme, BJP said its intention is only to draw the attention of the commission to the timing of the announcement.
"It appears to be the sinister intention of the government to use this for influencing the voters in Gujarat," the BJP memorandum on cash transfer scheme said.
Referring to the claims of Union ministers -- that the scheme will be a game changer -- the BJP said, "The announcement of game changer decisions are rarely timed without any expectation of a gain or major fallout."
The BJP said as per the model code of conduct, the party in power cannot announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof and rejected the government's argument.
Four of the 51 districts chosen for the first phase of the roll-out for direct cash transfers fall in Gujarat, which goes to polls in two phases on December 13 and December 17.
BJP's Gujarat state unit had on Thursday filed a complaint with the Election Commission, saying the announcement of direct cash transfer scheme was a violation of the model code of conduct in view of the assembly elections in Gujarat and demanded its immediate intervention.
The new direct cash scheme, aimed at plugging leakages and ensuring efficient delivery of benefits, will initially cover 29 welfare schemes mainly related to scholarships but leave out beneficiaries of subsidised food and fertilisers.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram has already rejected opposition's charge -- that the scheme amounted to offering bribe to people -- saying, "It is an absurd argument. I cannot find a stronger word. People should choose their words carefully. People should hurl their accusations with a sense of responsibility."