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BAHUJAN SAMAJ PARTY, MAYAWATI

‘Nothing new about EC ordering draping of Mayawati statues’

THE HINDU

Similar order to cover photos of Vajpayee was issued during 2004 Lok Sabha polls

Amid criticism from some quarters of the Election Commission ordering draping of statues of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and her party symbol, elephant, informed sources on Saturday said this was not the first time such a direction was issued during elections.

“Even prior to the May 2004 Lok Sabha elections, a similar order to drape photographs/portraits of the then Prime Minister and BJP leader A.B. Vajpayee, installed on highways and at golden quadrilateral road projects, was issued and it was adhered to,” recalled a senior EC official.

There used to be huge boards along the developed/underdeveloped highways, with photographs of a beaming Mr. Vajpayee waving to motorists. As many as 600 such boards were put up at a cost of Rs.48 crore and later Rs.1.8 crore was spent for their removal.

The EC asked the National Highway Authority of India to cover the boards as the model code did not allow display of hoardings paid for from the exchequer. The Opposition parties, led by the Congress, had complained that the boards gave the NDA unfair advantage at the public expense.

After the elections, the NHAI ordered removal of the signboards hours before Manmohan Singh took oath as Prime Minister.

“Little difference”

Meanwhile, a former Chief Election Commissioner told The Hindu that the EC’s order was not going to make any difference as the people knew very well whose statues they were even if they were draped. The EC might have taken the decision as the matter, relating to a complaint seeking action against Ms. Mayawati (disqualification) for installing her statues and elephant statues at public places at the cost of the exchequer, was pending in the Supreme Court, he said.

The EC, which also heard a complaint seeking freezing of the BSP‘s symbol as elephant statues had been installed in parks and public places by spending the public money, rejected the plea after a detailed hearing.

In its order in October 2010, the EC held that the complaint against Ms. Mayawati was not maintainable.

On a petition from advocate Ravi Kant, the Supreme Court had asked the EC to pass appropriate orders on the petition.

Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and Election Commissioners V.S. Sampath and H.S. Brahma, in their order on October 11, said: “The grounds pleaded do not fall within the ambit of any of the disqualifications laid down in the law. The Commission cannot add or lay down any new grounds for disqualification.” Therefore the prayer for her disqualification is rejected.”

On the plea to freeze the elephant symbol, the EC said this question could be considered only if the model code was violated. It was well settled that the code would come into play only when the poll schedule was announced. “If a party, whether ruling or in the Opposition, by misusing public funds for its own partisan ends, erects or installs statues of its party symbol, even during non-election period, the party cannot absolve itself of the accusation that it has acted in breach of salutary principles underlying the objects of the code — maybe not in letter, but undoubtedly in spirit.”

BSP contention

The BSP then contended that the elephant statues showed the trunk raised in a welcome posture, whereas in the party symbol, the trunk was lowered.

While holding that the complaint was not maintainable, the EC said: “At the time of elections, the Commission would no doubt take appropriate steps and measures to see that the statues of Ms. Mayawati and the BSP’s symbol ‘elephant’ do not disturb the level-playing field.”

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About NNLRJ INDIA

NATIONAL NETWORK OF LAWYERS FOR RIGHTS AND JUSTICE (NNLRJ) is a law initiative of Shakti Vahini

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Ravi Kant,Advocate Supreme Court of India

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