Bihar polls: Irked by BJP advert, EC bans ads without prior clearance

New Delhi: Apparently taking exception to another "offending" advertisement by the BJP despite its advisory, the Election Commission today ordered a ban on publishing ads by any party or candidate today, when Bihar goes to poll in the final phase, without being "pre-certified" by an empowered media panel.

Noting that it had directed newspapers not to publish any advertisements which have the potential of promoting ill-will, hatred or disharmony, EC in its fresh advisory said despite the direction certain advertisements 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 today, 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.

The move followed a representation from the grand alliance parties, including JD(U) and Congress, against the advertisement, which they alleged was aimed to "polarize Bihar elections by promoting communal hatred".

It said the MCMC should take fast decisions on advertisements planned by parties and candidates for tomorrow, the fifth and last phase of Bihar polls.

The Commission also said all newspapers and Presidents of political parties should be informed about the advisory.

Without naming BJP anywhere in its communication, the poll panel said the newspapers should not publish any advertisement which has not been pre-certified by the MCMC at the district or state level as the case be.

The BJP advertisement had questioned Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's "silence" on "repeated insult" to cows by grand alliance leaders as the animal is revered by the countrymen and asked had asked him to come clean on the issue and stop playing votebank politics.

The advertisement also asked the Chief Minister whether he agreed with the remarks on beef eating by his "friends" from alliance partners, including Lalu Prasad and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh of RJD and Karnataka Chief Minister and Congress leader S Siddaramaiah.  

The grand alliance criticised BJP for putting out the advertisement in vernacular dailies in areas going to polls tomorrow in the last phase, including Seemanchal.

On October 31, the Commission had asked political parties in Bihar not to publish advertisements that have the potential to create mutual hatred and ill-will among different social and religious communities so that the peaceful atmosphere is not vitiated.

In a strongly-worded advisory, the Commission has directed the Chief Electoral Officer of Bihar to ask political parties, workers and candidates to also provide poll authorities with a copy of advertisement sent to print media for publication.

JD (U) leader K C Tyagi welcomed the fresh EC advisory and hoped that this time the "spirit of the order will not be violated by the BJP."

"We also hope that culprits are booked for violation of the model code of conduct and other related penal provisions," he said.

Congress spokesman RPN Singh to welcomed the EC move and demanded "stern action" against those responsible for issuing the advertisement.

But BJP rejected the criticism of its advertisement by the grand alliance leaders, saying what it published today was  facts, referring to the statements of RJD chief Lalu Prasad on beef row.

"We have asked some questions from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the backdrop of Prasad's comments. We have not made any violation. If anything, it is the grand alliance leaders who had raked up divisive issues in Bihar polls," party secretary Shrikant Sharma said.

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