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Action plan on good governance: panel stresses need for blueprint

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MARCH 29. There was a broad consensus within the Standing Committee of the Inter-State Council today over preparing a "Blueprint of Action Plan on Good Governance," including electoral reforms, to provide for State funding of elections and preventing criminals from contesting polls. While the modalities for State funding of elections will have to be worked out, the proposed blueprint will come up for further discussion at the next Inter-State Council meeting.

This was disclosed here today by the Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, after the four-hour-long meeting. While he informed the media that the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, had decided to convene a meeting of all Chief Ministers on April 15, the Minister said the date for the next Inter-State Council was yet to be decided.

State funding of elections was forcefully argued by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, in his address. He was of the view that at least part of the expenses for contesting elections should be borne by the Government. And, since the States are cash-strapped, he said the Centre should pick up the bill.

Also, citing the recent chapter of political instability in Jharkhand and Goa, Mr. Yadav made out a case against the creation of more smaller States; a point which apparently found currency with the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Briefing mediapersons separately about the meeting, Mr. Reddy quoted Mr. Yadav as speaking out against smaller States. Asked whether he agreed with his U.P. counterpart, his answer was: "Mr. Yadav made several good points." However, he was quick to state the Congress official position of setting up a second States Reorganisation Commission to discuss the issue of smaller States.

Meanwhile, last night's tsunami alert and the recent contentious political developments in Jharkhand and Goa saw the Government give precedence to disaster management and good governance over the Sarkaria Commission recommendations at the meeting. On whether the Sarkaria Commission recommendations were discussed at the meeting, Mr. Patil answered in the negative; adding that there was general consensus across the political spectrum that while Article 356 should be retained, it should be used sparingly.

Besides, he said, all members of the Standing Committee — the others being the Union Law and Justice Minister, H.R. Bhardwaj; the Union Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister, T.R. Baalu; the Union Information and Technology Minister, Dayanidhi Maran; the Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Suresh Pachauri; besides the Chief Ministers of Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka, Narendra Modi, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Dharam Singh respectively — unanimously recommended the immediate setting up of a National Centre for Good Governance in the Capital to showcase the best practices of good governance.

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