Poll code breach: SEC gives clean chit to health minister

Bhubaneswar: In a major respite for health minister Damodar Rout, the State Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday gave a clean chit to the BJD leader over allegations of model code of conduct violation during campaign for the ensuing civic polls.
 
The commission has clarified that the minister used a private vehicle during the campaign and the red beacon atop the vehicle was not flickering. So, it cannot be termed as violation of code, the SEC stated.
 
The minister landed in trouble on Monday after Dhenkanal municipal election officer lodged a complaint with SEC against minister Damodar Rout for using red beacon during campaign. The officer also alleged that the minister misbehaved him when he tried to apprise Rout about poll conduct violation.
 
While the incident had prompted the BJP to seek Rout’s expulsion from the ministry, State BJP spokesperson Sajjan Sharma alleged that besides using the red beacon vehicle, the BJD leader also used harsh words against the administrative officer. So, he must be sacked from the ministry, Sharma demanded.
 
The saffron party also urged the election commission to recommend the chief minister to expel Rout from the ministry.
 
In reply, the BJD vice-president also countered such allegation saying that his red beacon was not blowing during the campaign.
 
“It is clearly mentioned that the red beacon must not be used by the ministers during election campaign and I have not done that at all. I know the flag code. If the red light is flickering atop the vehicle, then it’s a violation. In my vehicle the light was there but it was not blowing,” he had said.
 
Rout was the second leader of BJD to be embroiled in such controversy after Steel minister Rajnikant Singh who was trapped in trouble after his office sent by fax a probable list of party candidates to Angul collector office.