Bihar today woke up to an ad in newspapers featuring a woman hugging a cow and an attack on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on his "silence" over statements made by his allies on beef.
The Election Commission has directed political parties not to publish ads in newspapers without its approval in Bihar. This is the first time in the history of the poll panel that it is pre-censoring political ads.
It also means that any ad that has not been submitted to the Election Commission for clearance, cannot be published today, the crucial last and final day of polling before votes are counted on Sunday in the bitterly fought Bihar assembly election.
The directive came after the Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance complained to the Election Commission on Wednesday about a BJP ad in Bihar newspapers that brought up the beef controversy in an attack on the Chief Minister.
The Election Commission had last week issued a strongly-worded advisory asking the chief electoral officer of Bihar to ensure that two controversial BJP ads were not published till the election process was over.
One attacked RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar on reservation, the other on vote-bank politics. The Grand Alliance had complained about both.
Wednesday's BJP ad featured a third controversy - beef. It showed a woman hugging a cow and attacked Nitish Kumar on his "silence" over statements made by Lalu Yadav and other allies.
"Stop vote bank politics and explain whether you endorse these statements," the ad said, listing three comments including Lalu Prasad's statement from last month, "Don't Hindus eat beef too? It is the poor who are forced to eat beef. People eat (beef) outside the country too. What difference does it make?"
"The BJP's ads show how insecure they are... such comments, ads haven't appeared in the last 40 years... If the election process isn't fair, people will lose faith in democracy," said KC Tyagi of Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) after complaining to the commission.
The BJP has said that Lalu Prasad stoked the beef controversy with his remark, not them.
The Election Commission, while banning ads that it has not okayed, pointed out that it had asked parties to submit copies of ads that they wanted to publish, but this hadn't been done.
The fifth phase today will see voting in 57 of Bihar's 243 constituencies.