“Party cannot be allowed to campaign at government expense”

As the Election Commission received reports from the Uttar Pradesh administration about the compliance of its order for draping the statues of Chief Minister Mayawati and BSP's party symbol, “the elephant,” the Commission took strong exception to the party's criticism that its order was “unjustified and one-sided.”

“How can you expect the Commission to sit as a mute spectator when you [BSP] take political advantage and campaign through such statues which have been put up at the government's expenditure? Won't it affect the level playing field and give undue advantage to the ruling party?” asked a senior Commission official, on condition of anonymity, on Thursday.

The official was reacting to BSP general secretary and Rajya Sabha member Satish Chandra Mishra's criticism of the order. Mr. Mishra had written to the Commission saying its order was in violation of the law, and sought that it be reconsidered. Mr. Mishra had even said the Commission had demoralised the party and left Dalits and backwards “cheated.” The BSP also appeared to raise questions on the Commission's intentions to hold free and fair polls in the State.

Mr. Mishra had written: “The decision is [in] violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides right of equality. Similar decisions should be taken against other parties also.”

The EC official said the party symbol was an elephant whether its trunk was down or raised as if to signal welcome (as in the statue put up by the BSP government). “Even if there is a gain of one vote to the BSP through such statues, it amounts to influencing the voters and we can't allow them to be set up in the public places at the government's cost.”

The official asked the party why it did not approach the Allahabad High Court challenging the order on the draping of the statues instead of sparring with the Commission through the media. “Why are they not trying to settle the issue through the legal route,” he asked.

Advocate Ravi Kant had, in his writ petition filed in the Supreme Court in 2010 seeking derecognition of the BSP and freezing of its symbol, alleged that the Mayawati government had used around Rs. 2,000 crore from the State budget for 2008-09 and 2009-10 for such projects (statues).