NEW DELHI: India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sparked yet another controversy ahead of general polls by using photographs of defence personnel on hoardings or posters as part of its election campaign, which in turn has compelled the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take notice of the matter.
Consequently, all political parties across the country have been ordered to refrain from using photographs of defence personnel on hoardings or posters while campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls.
The beleaguered government of the BJP has displayed billboards featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah among other leaders along with Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman with a caption that read, ‘Modi Hai Toh Mumkin Hai’ which translates to “If Modi is in power, it is possible! NaMo again 2019!” NaMo is an acronym for Modi.
‘Modi Hai Toh Mumkin Hai’ – incidentally – happens to be the BJP’s slogan this election season.
Social media users strongly criticized the party and called it a “shameful” and a “cheap poll trick”. They could not evaluate how Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan Army after an aerial dogfight with India on February 27 and then released by Prime Minister Imran Khan, has become a hero.
The ECI asserted that the armed forces are “apolitical and neutral stakeholders in a modern democracy”, and asked political parties across the country to not use photographs of defence personnel on hoardings or posters in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
The Election Commission, in its notice, drew the parties’ attention to a letter dated December 4, 2013, that gave reasons for not using the armed forces in poll campaigns. “It is pertinent to mention here that the Armed Forces of a nation are the guardian of its frontiers, security and the political system. They are apolitical and neutral stakeholders in a modern democracy. It is therefore necessary that political parties and leaders exercise great caution while making any reference to the Armed Forces in their political campaigns,” an extract from the earlier notice noted.
“The Commission accordingly calls upon all political parties to advise their candidates/leaders to desist from displaying photographs of Defence personnel or photographs of functions involving Defence personnel in advertisements or otherwise as part of their election propaganda/campaigning,” it added, demanding strict compliance from the parties concerned.
Importantly, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, who yesterday linked Pathankot and Pulwama terror attacks with elections, predicted another Pulwama like attack just before elections in a bid by the BJP to secure the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The MNS chief also said that Assembly elections in four states were due when the terror attack in Pathankot took place in 2015, implying there was a connection.
Thackeray criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for suggesting that the result of the dogfight between Indian and Pakistani air forces could have been different if the Indian side was equipped with Rafale jets.
On March 1, the Pakistani government had released the Indian pilot who was captured when his MiG-21 was among two Indian military aircraft shot down by Pakistan Air Force after they ventured into the Pakistani airspace, as a “gesture of peace” towards New Delhi.
Journalist Rama Lakshmi questioned the political party and asked, “Is the BJP allowed to use Abhinandan in its posters? It is ‘a slippery slope’.”
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