Thiruvananthapuram: The Pinarayi Vijayan government scored a morale-boosting victory when the Kerala High Court stayed an order of the Election Commission disallowing the distribution of rice at a discounted price to non-priority ordinary card holders on a complaint from the opposition.
The stay was granted on an appeal filed by the state government against the commission’s order. The court arrived at the decision on the basis of the government claim that the decision for the rice distribution was taken on February 4 before the assembly election was announced.
The court, however, issued strict instructions not to use the rice distribution in the election campaign of the ruling front candidates.
The government told the court that the distribution of 10kg of special rice at a price of Rs 15 per kg had been organised earlier also under a plan announced in the state budget.
The government argued that since it was an ongoing scheme, the Election Commission’s order disallowing the rice distribution cannot be accepted. The commission had argued that the rice distribution was with an eye on the election.
The commission pointed out in support of its contention that the rice distribution had been stopped in August last year and it was resumed only in March this year, to be continued in April.
The commission issued the order following a complaint filed by leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala to the effect that the state government was violating the code of conduct for the election by distributing rice to influence voters.
The government had explained to the commission that a similar distribution of foodgrains to school children was also a continuation of an existing policy.
The rice distribution had suddenly become a hot campaign issue, with the chief minister describing the opposition leader as the people’s ‘food stopper’. Sensing the negative impact of the claim, the opposition UDF took great pains to explain that its complaint was only about the misuse of the scheme.
Ramesh Chennithala, on the other hand, accused Pinarayi Vijayan of hoarders’ mentality by discontinuing the rice supply all these months so that it could be released in time for the elections.