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EC frowned on this but uses martyr icon in its Bengal ad

The ad asks the reader: "They sacrifice for their country. Can't you even vote for the country?"

A former EC official acknowledged that such an advertisement for the Commission is probably a first.

The Election Commission Saturday invoked the armed forces in its print advertisement urging West Bengal’s electors to come out and vote, even as it advises political leaders and candidates to desist from making any reference to Defence personnel in their poll campaign.

The ad that appeared on the day of the fourth phase of polling displays the silhouette of the ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ and a sketch of cartoonist RK Laxman’s ‘Common Man’ as paying homage to the fallen soldier. The ad asks the reader: “They sacrifice for their country. Can’t you even vote for the country?”

It then goes on to state, “Vote is not only your right, but also your duty. Cast your vote fearlessly.”

The Amar Jawan Jyoti was constructed after the 1971 war to commemorate the martyred and unknown soldiers of the Indian armed forces who died during the war.

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In the past, the EC has advised political parties 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/campaign”.

This advisory was first issued in December 2013. In 2019, the Commission reiterated it on the eve of the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections, March 9, and again on March 19 in the context of several candidates and campaigners using the Pulwama terror attack and Balakot airstrikes in their campaign.

This instruction stems from the logic that the armed forces are “apolitical” and “neutral stakeholders” in a modern democracy and hence should not be dragged into an election.

A former EC official acknowledged that such an advertisement for the Commission is probably a first. “The poll watchdog is expected to play by the same rules. You can’t stop political parties from using the defence forces and then go ahead and do it yourself,” he said.

However, a senior officer currently with the commission defended the ad: “Our intention is completely different. First, the silhouette used here is not just meant for the armed forces, it is supposed to signify the police forces, too. Moreover, we are not politicising the armed forces for electoral gains. Our purpose is to exhort voters to come out and vote.”

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