Photographs of defence personnel cannot be used to promote political parties during campaign, the Election Commission said today while announcing the dates for the coming national polls. The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19 and the counting will be held on May 23.
With the announcement, the model code of conduct has come into effect.
The ban on use of defence personnel for campaigns, however, is not part of the model code, which is a set of dos and don'ts for political parties to ensure free and fair elections. But it was mentioned by the Commission in a letter in 2013.
Today, the Commission cited the letter 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 functions involving defence personnel in advertisements".
The Commission's move came in the wake of reports of political leaders seeking votes by brazenly piggybacking on the army in the backdrop of the air strikes on the Jaish-e Mohammed terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot.
Hoardings have been seen sporting images of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman with that of political leaders.
Abhinandan Varthaman has become a national hero after he shot down an F-16 fighter jet when Pakistan violated Indian airspace on February 27 and targeted military installations. He was captured by Pakistan and was released nearly 40 hours later.
Days later, senior BJP leader Manoj Tiwari was seen at a party rally wearing an army jacket. He said he was proud to wear the colours of the army.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, a former army officer, welcomed the Commission's move.
"It is good that the EC has taken note of the shameful practice of using such photographs for electoral gains, especially in the wake of the recent IAF air strikes on terror camps in Pakistan," Mr Singh said in a statement.
"Earning brownie points through politicisation of forces is as wrong as using photographs of defence personnel to take political mileage," he added.