The Election Commission has defended its use of the armed forces in a tweet – seen by some as a violation of its own rules – urging eligible people to vote in the final stages of the Bengal elections.
The poll body called the model code – which warns against the inclusion of the armed forces in election campaigns – applies only to political parties and their election strategies and content, and does not apply in this case. The commission said its tweet was only to educate people about the importance of voting.
“In the instant case, what is the benefit and for whom any benefit is sought by sending an appeal by the Commission …” The body in the survey asked, “Please see the text of the advertisement …” Say clearly that if the defense personnel is in charge of the nation. If you can give up your life while fighting for it, then the voters should not go out of their house and try to come to the polling station and vote freely and fearlessly. “
The tweet in question was posted on Saturday, as voting took place in the latest phase of voting in Bengal.
The ad read: “They make sacrifices for their country. Can’t you also do for the country?”
Beneath this text is the silhouette of the Amar Jawan Jyoti – a war memorial under India Gate in Delhi, which honors Indian soldiers killed for their country during the 1971 war with Pakistan.
This poster borrows in tribute to the ‘Aam Aadmi’ memorial of iconic cartoonist RK Laxman, and says: “Vote is not only your right, but also your duty. Vote fearlessly.”
– Election Commission of India #SVEEP (@ECISVEEP) 10 April, 2021
Reference to the armed forces during elections is prohibited by two consultations of the Election Commission. The most recent of these was in March 2019 – weeks before the start of the Lok Sabha elections.
Political leaders were reminded of the military’s recruitment into the army in the backdrop of airstrikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist bases in Balakot, Pakistan.
Examples of that piggyback included posters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah with Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was mentioned as a national hero after being shot down by a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet on 27 February .
Dear Election Commission of India:
Is it permissible?
Using a picture of a serving soldier in political posters?
If not, will you take action against it? pic.twitter.com/IiGUkphZWM
– Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) 9 March 2019
The poll body responded by saying that the armed forces are “political and neutral stakeholders in modern democracy” and asked political parties across the country to refrain from using photographs of defense personnel on hoardings or posters during the vote.
The Election Commission had said, “It is therefore necessary that political parties and leaders take great care while making any reference to the armed forces in their political campaigns.”
The ideal code of the Commission – applied during election campaigning and voting – as it said in its statement, is only for political parties to follow. The poll body is not bound to them, but it would be difficult to punish others for violating the rule when they commit similar violations.