GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat government has not taken kindly to the news of Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh bagging the prestigious Magsaysay award, called the Nobel prize of Asia.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who targeted Lyngdoh's religious background during his pre-poll speeches, told his officials that there was no need to issue a statement congratulating the CEC, said a source close to the CM.

A top CM confidante, pleading anonymity, said, "The Magsaysay award is meant for only people like Lyngdoh. Baba Amte, who championed the cause of the lepers, was never remembered for the good work he was doing. However, the moment he identified himself with Gujarat's opponent, Medha Patkar, he was given the Magsaysay award." He added, "We all know how the awardees are selected. There is nothing new."

Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, known for his closeness to the CM, denied it was only because of Lyngdoh that free and fair polls were held.

"I think, it was mainly because Gujarat government officials worked impartially that the state witnessed peaceful polls in December 2002. And the state's political parties fully cooperated with them. Surely, such a situation would not arise in Bihar."

Refusing to take such an aggressive stand, government spokesperson I K Jadeja, however, evaded a comment on the award.

"There is nothing to say in the matter. He has got the award. It's fact," he said.

Officials in the CM office, too, took a cautious view. A CMO bureaucrat said it was "good" that Lyngdoh, an ex-IAS officer, had got the award. However, he did not wish to go into the merit of the CEC having held a free and fair poll.

Yet, there were dissenting voices among Cabinet ministers as well as BJP MLAs. Especially state Water Supplies Minister Narottam Patel, known for his closeness to Union Textile Minister Kashiram Rana, said he was glad that Lyngdoh had got the award.

"Despite whatever had happened, it is a fact that under him free and fair polls took place in both Gujarat and J&K. We won the polls with a thumping majority. I will personally congratulate him. One should admit what's good in a man."

Taking a similar view, state Revenue Minister Kaushik Patel recalled how impartial Lyngdoh was, though careful enough not to take the CEC's name.

"All good men should be awarded. One should remember the Digvijay Singh government in Madhya Pradesh was indicted for its failure to impartially revise the electoral rolls," the senior minister underlined.

BJP MLA Sunil Oza insisted, "We should be grateful to Lyngdoh for conducting impartial polls. We won 127 seats in the state Assembly. Why should one be afraid of admitting what's a fact?"

But he added, "It's because the BJP cooperated fully with Lyngdoh that the polls were held peacefully."

The state's powerful IAS bureaucracy has been mum on the issue, though Lyngdoh was a 1961 IAS batch officer. A spokesperson for the IAS Association said, "We have still not held consultations."

The Association had protested against Lyngdoh's alleged rude behaviour towards Vadodara Collector Bhagyesh Zha, snubbed as "joker" for failing replies on Best Bakery case.

When contacted, then state Chief Secretary G Subba Rao, one of the persons who was criticised by Lyngdoh during the polls, said he did not wish to say anything about CEC getting award.

"I am currently chairman of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission. It's a semi-judicial body. Hence, it would be improper to say anything in the matter," he said.