Against the backdrop of the Election Commission instructing political parties to desist from making references to the armed forces in their campaigns, Delhi BJP and AAP leaders who featured in posters alongside wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman have claimed their supporters had designed the posters in their enthusiasm to praise the Army, but they will desist from doing so in the future.
The BJP had faced criticism from some quarters for using Abhinandan’s image in a poster, which also had pictures of the party’s central leadership and three local leaders — former mayor Sarita Chaudhary, BJP councillor from Vasant Kunj Manoj Kumar Mehlawat and Mehrauli mandal president Manjeet Malik. AAP leader and Lok Sabha candidate from Chandni Chowk Pankaj Gupta had also come under fire after he and his supporters took out a car and bike rally with posters that read ‘Abhinandan ka Abhinandan’.
When contacted, Chaudhary, a three-time councillor, said, “My supporters did it to show their support for the Indian Army. I don’t think there is anything wrong in showing support to the courage and valour of the Army.”
She added, “There are people who are asking for proof (of the airstrike), what about them?”
Told about the EC guidelines, she said her supporters may not have been aware of it and that she will ask them to be careful in the future. She said that such posters had come up in three-four areas in South Delhi.
The EC had written to presidents, chairpersons and general secretaries of all recognised parties Saturday, drawing their attention to an old circular dated December 4, 2013. “Political parties and leaders should exercise great caution while making any reference to the Armed Forces in their political campaign,” stated the EC directive.
Mehlawat said, “Workers did this in honour of an Armyman, but we will refrain from such actions…” BJP general secretary Ravinder Gupta said the leaders “wanted to praise the armed forces but got carried away”.
AAP’s Gupta said, “We missed the EC advisory and will not do it again.” But he added that “unlike the BJP”, his party was not using the Armed Forces for electoral gains but was merely welcoming the IAF pilot back to India. “It was just Abhinandan ka abhinandan,” he said.