From the Viewsroom

The Armed forces must not be dragged into election campaigning

Preethi Mehra | Updated on April 07, 2019

The Election Commission is being too soft on the ruling party

National security, no doubt, is a matter of prime concern and any success at protecting our frontiers accrues as credit for the government of the day and the party in power. But for the latter to exploit and trumpet the sacrifices of our jawans for electoral gains constitutes an unfair practice. It not only violates the Election Commission’s model code of conduct, but it also undermines the armed forces which, since Independence, has prided itself on being a secular institution insulated from party politics.

Unfortunately, the terrorist strike on a CRPF convoy at Pulwama on February 14 and India’s retaliatory air strike on a militant training camp in Balakot on February 26 have been turned into a poll plank by the BJP. The appeal going out to the electorate is this: since the army has “taught Pakistan a lesson” it is a good enough reason to vote the party back to power.

Campaigning of this kind, to say the least, is unhealthy. In fact, as early as May 10, the EC issued a statement appealing to political parties to refrain from featuring the armed forces in political advertisements or campaigns. But despite this, posters have surfaced showcasing the Balakot strike as an example of the BJP’s pro-active Pakistan policy.

Also, the Balakot “revenge” theme has repeatedly surfaced in the election speeches of several BJP politicians inviting only a mild rebuke from the Election Commission. Perhaps it should revisit the strongly-worded letter sent by it to political parties ahead of the 2014 polls. The Commission had then noted: “The Armed Forces of a nation are the guardians 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 EC, many allege, has not come down hard enough this time on those violating its code.

Published on April 07, 2019

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