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Photos of soldiers cannot be used for election campaign: EC warns political parties

The Election Commission of India has issued a directive to political parties and candidates, asking them to not use photographs of any defence personnel in their advertisements for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

In a statement on Saturday, the election commission said it was brought to its notice that photographs of defence personnel were being used by political parties and candidates in advertisements as part of their election propaganda.

With this, the election commission reiterated its instruction issued in 2013 against such propaganda.

The Ministry of Defence, in 2013, had complained to the commission about photographs of defence personnel being used for election campaigns. The ECI had then said that with the armed forces — which are apolitical and neutral stakeholders — political parties and leaders must exercise great caution while making any reference to the forces in their political campaigns.

“The commission is of the view that the photographs of the chief of the army staff or any other defence personnel should not be associated with or used in any manner in advertisement/propaganda/campaigning or in any other manner in connection with elections by political parties or candidates,” the ECI had said, in the statement.

On Saturday, the election commission reproduced the statement and advised the parties against such propaganda.

Notably, the directive has come in the wake of Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s fortitude and courage in the face of enemy captivity being celebrated across the country.

India, in retaliation to February 14 Pulwama attack, carried out a pre-dawn airstrike on a JeM terror camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A day later, 24 Pakistan Air Force jets entered Indian airspace near LoC and dropped bombs in the Indian territory.

Abhinandan Varthaman was reportedly captured on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison was hit by the Pakistan Army across the Line of Control (LoC). On February 28, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Abhinandan would be released Friday as a “peace gesture”.

Political parties have since been milking the achievement of the Forces — past and present, in the run up to the 2019 general election.

The instructions came after the photograph of a hoarding displaying pictures of the IAF pilot as well as senior BJP leaders was circulated on social media and came to the EC’s notice. However, it was not known where the hoarding had been put up.

The Election Commission of India will soon announce its schedule for the high-voltage Lok Sabha polls, which is likely to be spread over seven-eight phases in April-May.


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