ACCUSING HIM of being affiliated with the RSS, the Congress on Thursday demanded removal of theatre artiste and Hindi film actor Rajeev Verma as a state icon, a role that entails motivating people to exercise their franchise in large numbers.
In a complaint to the chief electoral officer, Madhya Pradesh, the Congress said Verma heads the state unit of Sanskar Bharati, an organisation affiliated with the RSS, the ideological parent of the Opposition BJP.
“As the regional head of Sanskar Bharati he keeps attending meetings of the RSS. To appoint him state icon is a violation of model code of conduct because the actor is associated with a particular ideology. An icon should not be associated with a particular party or an ideology because only then can he appeal people to vote without any bias,” the complaint said demanding Verma’s removal. Huge photographs of the 69-year-old actor are used on hoardings that appeal to vote in large numbers.
Additional CEO Arun Kumar Tomar said the commission has sought an explanation from the actor. He said before naming someone an icon, the commission takes a written undertaking that he or she is not associated with any party or ideology. He said while consenting to be an icon, the actor said he was not associated with any party or ideology. Tomar said the commission will wait for the actor’s explanation and also use other channels to find out about his affiliation now that a complaint has been received.
When contacted, Verma told The Indian Express that he was not associated with the RSS. “Let them complain. Let them remove me I am not bothered. They use my face. I don’t get paid anything for it.” He, however, did not comment on his association with Sanskar Bharati.
RSS spokesperson Narendra Jain said Verma was associated with Sanskar Bharati. “It’s not a wing of the RSS,” he said. “Character building is the only job of the RSS,” he said, adding there are other organisations started by the Swayamsevaks or people from a particular field.
“Vermaji is associated with Sanskar Bharati because he is an artiste. Will they also act against someone for being associated with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA)? Have they done that,” he asked.
Folk singer Prahald Tipaniya was also one of the state icons. The EC removed his name from the list in March after it became clear that he was going to associate himself with a political party. Tipaniya is now Congress candidate from Dewas. The Congress has cited this example in its complaint.