They had become a prized campaign tool for publicity and political persuasion. But with the election model code of conduct in place,autorickshaws in Delhi have done a quick U-turn. The autorickshaws,their bodies crisscrossed with advertisements of the Aam Aadmi Party,BJP and Congress,are now devoid of posters due to fear of the law and political reprisal.
While autorickshaw drivers claim otherwise,union heads said getting involved in political campaigns may hurt them as they were dependent on government for smooth functioning.
The advertisement campaign on autorickshaws began with the AAP putting up posters on the vehicles slamming the Congress-led government and the opposition BJP. However,the two national parties soon followed suit.
AAP spokesperson Manish Sisodia said,Even with the code of conduct in place,door-to-door campaigning will be our prime strategy. We do not believe that removing advertisements from autorickshaws will seriously affect our campaign.
According to the general secretary of Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh Rajendra Soni,getting involved with political campaigns could now cost the auto drivers dearly. We have been following the code of conduct after the Election Commissions order. I have told every driver not to put up posters of political parties on their vehicles. If anyone gets challaned,it will become difficult for us to protect him and his autorickshaw as the political environment in the city is volatile. So,autorickshaws under our union removed the advertisements the day polls were announced, Soni said.
He alleged that political parties had promised to pay the autos for the advertisements but have now duped them. Drivers were supposed to get Rs 50 for every 15 days. But only a few of them have been paid, he said.
All Delhi Auto Taxi Transporters Congress Union president Kishan Verma said he too had been following the Election Commissions order.
We had a tiff with the Delhi government over the smooth plying of autos. We then came in contact with the AAP and thought Arvind Kejriwal was a better alternative. But we found that their Uttam Nagar ticket had been given to an undeserving candidate. We thought that if the AAP was not loyal to its workforce,how would it be loyal to us. Also,if Congress comes to power again,we fear we will have to face action, Verma said,adding that he,along with autorickshaw drivers,had gone to meet Dikshit on Tuesday.
Sisodia,however,claimed that the AAP had never dealt with the unions. We have been in touch directly with the autorickshaws drivers and they still support our cause, he said.
Meanwhile,Delhi Transport Minister Ramakant Goswami refrained from speaking on the governments role in removal of advertisements from autorickshaws. Such advertisements are against the Motor Vehicles Act and the AAP went to court on this issue. The Election Commission order may have prompted the removal, he said.