Election Commission tweets defending use of armed forces during West Bengal polls

The Election Commission Model Code - which expressly forbids reference to the armed forces in election campaigns – seems to hold good only for political parties.

The commission, it seems, gives itself greater latitude in the matter. In the tweet in question put out by the EC, the text reads: "They sacrifice for their country. Can't you even for the country?" Below this text is the silhouette of the Amar Jawan Jyoti - a war memorial at India Gate that honours the 1971 war martyrs.

The tweet also depicts iconic cartoonist RK Laxman's 'common man' paying homage to the memorial, and asserts: "Vote is not only your right, but also your duty. Cast your vote fearlessly".

The tweet was posted Saturday, as Bengal voted in the latest phase of polling.

The matter has cropped up in the past too, necessitating EC advisories prohibiting reference to the armed forces. Similar objections were raised when political placards showed PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah with cut outs of Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was hailed as a national hero after he shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet in February 27.

The EC had then responded with alacrity by asserting that the armed forces are "apolitical and neutral stakeholders in a modern democracy" and asked political parties across the country to desist from using photographs of defence personnel on hoardings or posters in the run-up to polling.

"It is therefore necessary that political parties and leaders exercise great caution while making any reference to the Armed Forces in their political campaigns," the Election Commission had said.

According to a report in NDTV, the EC has defended the allusion to the armed forces in the tweet.

The poll body said the Model Code - which cautions against involving the armed forces in election campaigns - was applicable only to political parties and their poll strategies and material, and did not apply in this case. The Commission said its tweet was only meant to educate people about the importance of voting.

(Story culled from an exclusive NDTV report)

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