EC asks pol parties to not use photos of armed forces

EC asks pol parties to not use photos of armed forces

Ranchi: BJP workers jubilate after the release of IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman by Pakistan, in Ranchi, Friday, March 1, 2019. Varthaman was captured by Pakistan after his jet went down following a strike by an enemy missile. (PTI Photo)

The Election Commission on Saturday asked political parties to refrain from using pictures of defence personnel for election campaigns.

The EC reissued December 4, 2013, advisory calling upon 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 or campaigning”.

The poll panel acted after receiving a letter from former Indian Navy chief Admiral L Ramdas, expressing concerns over “recent instances of using the armed forces for political gains, especially in the aftermath of both (the terror attack at) Pulwama (in Jammu and Kashmir) and the (air) strikes (on terror camp) in Balakot (in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan)”.

“It is pertinent to mention here that the armed forces of a nation are guardians of its frontiers, security and political system. They are apolitical and neutral stakeholder in a modern democracy. It is, therefore, necessary that political parties and leaders exercise great caution while making any reference to the armed forces in their political campaigns,” the commission had written in a letter to the political parties on December 4, 2013. The EC referred to the letter in its advisory issued on Saturday and asked the political parties to ensure “strict compliance”.

The Congress and other opposition parties have of late been blaming the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for trying to reap the political dividends of the killing of over 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in a suicide bombing at Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14 as well as the Indian Air Force's strikes on the Jaish-e-Mohammad camp inside Pakistan on February 26.

The BJP's campaign hoardings with the pictures of Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in the national capital evoked critical remarks on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Varthaman was detained by Pakistan Army on February 27 after the MiG 21 Bison aircraft he was flying was shot down by one of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter jets and he had to eject and land in territory under control of Pakistan.

The PAF fighter jets had intruded into the airspace of India to respond to the IAF strikes on the terror camp inside Pakistan.

Varthaman was released and repatriated to India on March 1.

The EC had issued the December 4, 2013 advisory after the Ministry of Defence had brought it to the notice of the commission that the photographs of the defence personnel had been used by political parties as part of their election propaganda.

The Ministry of Defence had written to the EC when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had been in power at the Centre.

The Congress had criticised the BJP for using pictures of the then Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh paying homage to a martyr in Jammu and Kashmir for its campaigning ahead of the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.

“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 or propaganda or campaigning or in any other manner in connections with elections by political parties and candidates,” the EC had written to all political parties.