Beef row: Election Commission bans political ads for Bihar polls
EC action prompted row over BJP ads that demanded an explanation from Nitish Kumar over remarks by his “friends” on eating beef
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Patna/New Delhi: On the eve of the last phase of the Bihar assembly elections, the Election Commission banned all political advertisements in newspapers on Thursday after a controversy over a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) advertisement that demanded an explanation from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over remarks by his “friends” on eating beef.
The BJP’s rivals alleged the ads were an attempt to “polarize” the election by “promoting communal hatred”. Though the BJP defended its action, saying there was “nothing wrong in it”, the Election Commission on Wednesday banned publication of advertisements by any party or candidate in newspapers on Thursday without those being “pre-certified” by an empowered media panel.
It is for the first time that the Election Commission has issued such a directive for the print media. After a 2004 Supreme Court order, such restrictions had been imposed on radio and TV ads and, in 2013, social media was also included, people familiar with the matter in the commission said.
The BJP advertisement questioning the “silence” of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over “repeated insult” to the “revered” cow by his “friends” appeared in vernacular newspapers in Kishanganj, Saharsa and other areas that will see voting in the fifth and final round of the Bihar assembly elections on Thursday.
The ad, with the photograph of a woman cuddling a cow, referred to the purported remarks of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, his party’s vice president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah over beef consumption and asked Kumar to “stop politics of vote bank and answer if he agrees with statements of his friends on beef.”
The advertisement quoted Lalu Prasad’s “Hindus also eat beef” remark and Singh’s comment that “it is written in Vedas and Puranas that saints used to eat beef in ancient times.”
It also quoted Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah’s comment that “if I want to eat beef nobody can stop me.” The advertisement in Hindi with word “beef” highlighted in red, concluded with: “jawab nahi vote nahi” (if there is no answer, no vote).
Reacting angrily to the advertisement, the grand alliance on Wednesday approached the Election Commission seeking action against the BJP for trying to “polarize Bihar elections by promoting communal hatred”.
The BJP, however, defended its action with senior party leader Sushil Kumar Modi saying, “There is nothing wrong in our advertisement on beef issue. “We were not the first to raise the issue (of beef). It was Lalu who did. We have just responded.”
However, the EC said it said despite its advisory against publishing advertisements that have the potential of promoting ill-will, certain ads of “offending nature” have been brought to its notice which were published in today’s newspapers in Bihar. “In order that no such instance is repeated on the date of poll which is to take place tomorrow, and no untoward incident takes place because of any inflammatory or hate advertisements, the Commission...directs that no political party or candidate or any other organisation or person shall publish any advertisement in the newspapers tomorrow unless the contents proposed to be published are got pre-certified by them from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC),” the EC said, invoking its Constitutional powers under Article 324.
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