Himansu Shekhar Rout

Taking an exception to the alleged use of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD)'s 'conch' symbol in advertisements using public funds, the Election Commission of India sought a clarification from the Odisha government and the party on Wednesday.

As per sources, the ECI has asked the Chief Secretary of Odisha and the general secretary of the BJD to file responses by March 2nd evening.

The ECI’s move has come at a time when political parties are going full tilt for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, which are expected to be held in April or May. The Model Code of Conduct will come into effect after the announcement of the poll dates.

The ECI had received complaints about the misuse of 'conch', the symbol of the BJD. It was alleged that the symbol is being displayed and promoted through various government-sponsored advertisements in leading Odia newspapers, TV channels, state transport buses, and through hoardings in different cities.

The ECI led by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar is underscoring the need for a stringent policy to ensure a level-playing field for all parties.

Sources added that the ECI has found the advertisements with conch symbols as violation of its instructions issued in October 2016.

The ECI instructions say, "The Commission is of the view that utilising public funds/public places for promoting any political party or propagating its election symbol would be antithetical to the concept of a free and fair election and the principle of a level playing field for all stakeholders." 

It may be noted here that opposition political parties like the BJP and Congress have been alleging that the BJD has been using the conch symbol in many schemes like Ama Odisha, Nabin Odisha, and others.

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BJP leader Biranchinarayan Tripathy said, "We had earlier taken up the issue with the ECI. The BJD knows it is going to be wiped out in the upcoming polls. That’s why it has been doing publicity of its party symbol through government advertisements.”

No comments were received from the State government or the BJD.

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