Noting that political parties have been using photographs of defence personnel in advertisements, the Election Commission (EC) Saturday asked them to desist from making references to the armed forces in their political campaign.
Just days before the announcement of Lok Sabha elections, the EC reiterated its instructions of 2013 on armed forces, which comes in the wake of complaints against parties for using the armed forces for political gains, especially in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack and the February 26 Balakot air strike.
The EC wrote to presidents, chairpersons and general secretaries of all recognised parties Saturday drawing their attention to an old circular dated December 4, 2013. “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 the political parties and leaders exercise great caution while making any reference to the Armed Forces in their political campaign,” stated the EC directive.
“The Commission is of the view that photographs of Chief of Army Staff or any other Defence personnel and photographs of functions of Defence Forces should not be associated with or used in any manner in advertisement/propaganda/campaigning or in any other manner in connection with elections by political parties and candidates,” the instructions states, asking for “strict compliance”.
Incidentally, Swaraj India national president Yogendra Yadav Saturday tweeted images of posters put up by local BJP leaders in which Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s photograph was used. In his tweet, he asked if using photographs of a serving soldier in a political poster is permitted by the poll panel.
To this, the EC spokesperson responded that the Commission has already issued instructions to this regard and once the Model Code of Conduct comes into force the EC will act against violations.
Also, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari was recently criticised by Opposition parties for wearing military fatigues to a political rally last week and Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Churu, Rajasthan, on February 26, against a backdrop of photographs of the CRPF personnel killed in the Pulwama attack.
Referring to attempts at politicising armed forces, former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas wrote to the EC this week urging the Commission to intervene. “This is completely unacceptable since it has the potential to destroy the very foundations and value systems of our armed forces, drawn from the vision, the spirit and intent of the Indian Constitution,” he wrote in his letter to the EC.
He also directed the Commission’s attention to news reports on the BJP using the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan in political posters.