Says there is need to create a level playing field in elections
Responding to remarks made about its diktat to the Uttar Pradesh government to cover all statues of Chief Minister Mayawati and her party symbol, the elephant, the Election Commission on Monday defended its decision vigorously citing the need to create “a level playing field” for elections to the country's most populous State.
It was also a day on which a public interest litigation petition was filed in the Allahabad High Court against the EC's order: the petition said the elephant was a symbol of Ganesh, and therefore the EC directive would hurt religious sentiments.
The EC, stressing that the criticism from various quarters was “not based on substance and misleading,” said some of the comments even suggest a lack of understanding of facts. A senior EC official told The Hindu that the order (to drape statues) was applicable to all living persons whose statues had been put up at public places at government expense. Even if a statue had been erected in a public place at private expense, this directive would be applicable. “We want to create a level playing field; no one should take political advantage,” he said.
Interestingly, apart from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has described the decision as “one-sided and against natural justice,” some Opposition parties like the Janata Dal (United) and the Communist Party of India too criticised the Commission saying this was not practical and would lead to complications.
EC sources pointed out that the order pertained only to the statues of Ms. Mayawati and the “elephant”: “We have not touched the statues of BSP leader Kanshi Ram though votes could be secured in his name, too. We strictly followed the policy of living persons.”
Indeed, the EC official stressed that in the past too portraits of the prime minister, chief ministers, ministers and political leaders active in public life placed in government offices and public places are routinely removed during elections and no relaxation was given to any party. He added that the issue of statues (of Ms. Mayawati and elephant) had been the subject matter of some complaints before the Commission in 2009: in its order of October 11, 2010, the Commission had made it clear that at the time of elections, the Commission would take appropriate steps to see that such statues do not disturb the level playing field.