Despite EC's Rules, Parties Found Politicising Armed Forces

Political parties have been advised against using images of defence personnel in their campaigns, but the Balakot airstrike has been heavily politicised ahead of the elections.

New Delhi: The Election Commission’s statement asking political parties to desist from using the armed forces for political advertisements or campaigns has not stopped them from politicising the Indian Air Force’s strike in Balakot, Pakistan or Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

As the clock begins ticking down for the elections, several instances of political parties or candidates using images of defence personnel have been reported. In some, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is spotted alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP functionaries.

In others, images of aircraft, soldiers and explosions can be seen with words such as ‘Har, har Modi. Ghar ghar Modi.’ One poster describes the IAF airstrike in Balakot as “Revenge for Pulwama”.

In most cases, the BJP  was the guilty party, but even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has tried to leverage Wing Commander Varthaman’s release and return to India.

A photo of an AAP rally using Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s photo. Credit: Twitter

Activist-politician Yogendra Yadav highlighted some of the instances on Twitter, asking the EC if it is permissible. The EC’s spokesperson responded, saying a general advisory has been issued to political parties to desist from using photos of defence personnel in their campaign or propaganda.

This is a reiteration of the contents of a letter the EC wrote in 2013. The EC had said:

[T]he Armed Forces of a nation are the guardian of its frontiers, security and 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. The Commission is of the view that photographs of Chief of Army Staff or any other Defence personnel and photographs of functions of Defence Forces 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 and candidates.

The EC took this action in 2013 after the Ministry of Defence asked it issue instructions to political parties which were using images of armed personnel in their campaigns.

EC’s app to notify violations

With the model code of conduct coming into effect on Sunday, the EC announced that for the first time, citizens will be able to notify violations to it directly. The app, called cVIGIL, will enable voters and citizens to flag “malpractices”. Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said the app allows citizens to post photos or video clips up to two minutes long.

Once the submission is made, the user can track the complaint and follow it up. The identity of the complainant would be confidential.

Also Read: Balakot Airstrikes are a Replay of Modi’s Notebandi Strategy

To prevent misuse, the app will only allow users to upload new photos and videos. Pre-recorded images or video cannot be uploaded to the app.

The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11. The results of all 543 constituencies will be announced on May 23, the EC said on Sunday.