Poll panel holds up Chidambaram’s monthly report (Lead)

April 2nd, 2009 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) The Election Commission’s (EC) directive to the central government Thursday to avoid media briefings after cabinet meetings has forced Home Minister P. Chidambaram to put off his monthly report on the functioning his ministry.
Sources in the poll panel said the directive was primarily a response to Chidambaram’s request to present the report as he has been doing every month since taking charge of the ministry Dec 1 last year in the wake of the terror attack on Mumbai.

But with the model code of conduct in place, the EC said an official platform should not be used for this.

In a statement issued here, the poll panel told the cabinet secretary to avoid media briefings after cabinet meetings.

“Now that the model code of conduct is in force throughout India in view of the current general elections to the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Sikkim, the Commission would like to advise that such press conferences should be avoided, as far as possible, and the practice of issuing press releases may be resorted to in such cases,” the statement said.

Till date Chidambaram has had three exhaustive briefings on what his ministry had been able to achieve since the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.

The home minister has set for himself a blistering pace of 150 days to put in place critical strategies and strengthen intelligence systems to thwart further attacks.

Though Chidambaram’s to-do list is a detailed one, he has been able to shore up intelligence mechanisms and make the Multi-Agency Centre within the Intelligence Bureau fully functional to process intelligence alerts.

According to home ministry officials, Chidambaram was scheduled to hold an interaction on March 31 but called it off at the last minute. Incidentally, Chidambaram donned the role of the party spokesperson and talked on terror threats to political leaders at the headquarters of the ruling Congress party.

The poll panel said it was aware of the normal practice of union ministers addressing press conferences after meetings of the council of ministers or when any issue of public importance relating to the ministry concerned needs to be brought to the attention of the people.

Given this, it said if the cabinet finds that holding a press conference becomes unavoidable in public interest, “then preferably an appropriate official may address the press conference”.

The commission said they should be “urgently” informed what action is being taken in this regard.

In his last briefing, Chidambaram had hit out at Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley, as well taking a swipe at the Indian cricket board for criticising the central government for allowing the prestigious Indian Premier League to be moved out of the country for security reasons.

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