India bars use of armed forces’ photographs for election campaign

No such restrictions imposed on politicians making references to war, surgical strikes in their speeches, sources say

News Desk March 10, 2019
No such restrictions imposed on politicians making references to war, surgical strikes in their speeches, sources say. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

The top poll organising authority in India has barred political parties from using photographs of armed forces in electioneering for the upcoming general election, The Times of India reported on Saturday.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) wrote to all the recognised national and state political parties saying that it had come to its notice that some parties were using photographs of defence personnel in advertisement as part of their political campaigns, despite elections for the lower house (Lok Sabha) and some state assemblies yet to be announced.

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Although, sources in the ECI clarified no such restrictions imposed on political leaders making references to India's surgical strikes in their campaign speeches.

"There has never been and cannot be any restraint on a political leader or candidate referring to a war or counter-terror action, while addressing poll rallies. But EC will strictly enforce its instructions restraining parties and candidates from using photos of chiefs of armed forces or defence personnel in their poll campaign material, alongside photos of political leaders, for soliciting votes," said a senior election commission official.

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A former Chief of Indian Naval Staff L Ramdas wrote a letter to the election commission seeking its intervention to prevent "misuse of the armed forces" for electioneering, after a banner showing the Indian Air Force pilot Abhinanadan Varthaman's photograph on a Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaign.

The election authority had said in its 2013 instructions, that armed forces being apolitical and neutral stakeholders, political parties and leaders must exercise great caution while making any reference to the forces in their political campaign, after a similar complaint was made by the defence ministry.

This article was originally appeared in The Times of India

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