The Election Commission (EC) on Saturday asked political parties to desist from displaying photographs of defence personnel in their poll campaigns. This comes after a picture was circulated on social media showing Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman being featured in a political poster.
In a letter to political parties written on Saturday, the EC referred to its December 2013 guidelines in which it had called upon all political parties to advise their candidates and leaders "to desist from displaying photographs of defence personnel or photographs of functions involving defence personnel in advertisements or as part of their election campaign.â€ť
â€śThe 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 the 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 to 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,â€ť the EC statement said.
"The Commission reiterates the instructions for strict compliance," the letter said. The letter referred to the defence ministry informing the poll panel about photographs of defence personnel being used by leaders and candidates of political parties and had sought instructions from the poll panel.
The commission had said it was of the view that photographs of defence personnel and of functions of defence forces should not be associated with advertisement or campaigning by political parties.
Wing Commander Varthaman had shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft on February 27 during an aerial engagement with Pakistan Air Force but his plane too was hit and he landed in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He was later released by Pakistan as a "peace gesture".