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Keep armed forces out of poll campaigns, says Election Commission

March 11, 2019

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has asked all political parties not to use images of defence personnel on hoardings and posters while campaigning. The EC has called the armed forces "apolitical and neutral stakeholders in a modern democracy" and said they should not be misused.

The notice was sent to all the parties concerned after billboards featuring BJP leaders such as Narendra Modi and Amit Shah along with Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman came up in parts of Delhi. The billboards also said, "Everything is possible under PM Modi," which translates into Modi hai toh mumkin hai, which is also the BJP's election slogan in this election.

Wing Commander Varthaman was captured by Pakistani authorities on 27 February and returned two days later. Many BJP leaders have said his release so soon after capture was due to Narendra Modi's efforts.

The EC drew the parties' attention to an earlier notice which had said that armed forces should not be used in poll campaigns.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Armed Forces of a nation are the guardian of its frontiers, security and the political system. They are apolitical and neutral stakeholders 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. - Election Commission of India

It went on to saw, "The Commission accordingly calls upon all political parties to advise their candidates/leaders 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/campaigning".

Earlier this week, in an open letter to the ECI, Admiral L Ramdas (retired), former chief of the Indian Navy has asked for the immediate intervention of the EC in stopping political parties from using the Pulwama attack, the Balakot air strike and Wing Commander Varthaman to influence the elections.

In an open letter to the EC, Admiral Ramdas said, "With elections due in a few weeks from now, it is particularly important that there should not be any misuse of these recent events by any political party to send triumphalist or jingoistic messages which can influence the electorate".

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