The Election Commission’s freeze on monthly increase in diesel price violates its own code of conduct, which essentially prescribes that no party or candidate shall indulge in any activity that may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic. Also, it stipulates that there shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes, and mosques, churches, temples or other places of worship shall not be used as forum for election propaganda.
For the party in power, it prescribes that it will not use government employees for election purpose nor will it monopolise media and public places. In particular, the following is stipulated:
“The party in power whether at the Centre or in the State or States concerned shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign and in particular:
… (v) Ministers and other authorities shall not sanction grants/payments out of discretionary funds from the time elections are announced by the Commission; and
(vi) From the time elections are announced by Commission, Ministers and other authorities shall not—
(a) announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof; or
(b) (except civil servants) lay foundation stones, etc, of projects or schemes of any kind; or
(c) make any promise of construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities, etc; or
(d) make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, public undertakings, etc, which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power.”
Broadly, these say that the government should not take any new action or initiatives that can have an impact on the election outcome. The government should continue with the policies it is following.
The monthly increase of 45 paise in diesel price was an announced policy of the government. In fact, over the past year or so, diesel price has been increased 13 times. When the existing policy required that the price of diesel be raised, not increasing it is, in my opinion, a change in policy. This will affect the outcome of the election. It favours diesel-users and amounts to giving them a grant. It is not clear if the Election Commission forbade the government or the government sought its concurrence and the Election Commission permitted it not to raise the price. Thus, the Election Commission itself has either made or permitted the