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October 13, 2010   8:31:06 AM

Abraham Thomas | New Delhi

The Election Commission on Tuesday left it to the Supreme Court to decide whether the construction of elephant statues amounted to promotion of BSP’s election symbol and influenced the voters during the polls.

The 21-page order, issued by the three-member Election Commission, came after detailed hearings on three petitions filed by advocates Ravi Kant, Sukumar and two others. The petitions had questioned the statues to be in violation of the ommission’s general instructions issued in March-April 2009, which prohibited display of photographs, images of political functionaries in Government buildings or premises, fearing it may influence voters’ mind. Noting its anguish over the State’s reluctance to provide crucial information, like the number of statues and the cost incurred on them, required to decide the case, the commission in its order said, “The commission is not in a position to gauge the impact of the above statues, and the extent of such impact, on the minds of the electors.”
Instead, the commission noted, “The commission, would no doubt, take appropriate steps and measures to see that the statues of Mayawati and BSP’s symbol elephant do not disturb the level playing field and give undue advantage to BSP vis-à-vis other political parties. ” It was mindful of the fact that the Supreme Court is already seized of a petition filed by Ravi Kant where the validity of statues have been challenged, being a colossal waste of public money and the fact that it disturbed the level playing field during elections.

Commenting on the aspect of public funds being spent on erecting statues, the EC order stated, “It hardly needs to be stressed that such propagation of the party’s symbol should be undertaken by the party by spending its own funds and resources and should not undertake such propagation by misusing its official position being the ruling party in the State, and using public funds for the purpose.”

The BSP, on its part, claimed that the EC had no business to question the spending on a Government project, since the exercise to construct the statues was taken by the State legislature and not by the party. But being kept in the dark about crucial details sought by it, the commission found this argument of the State hollow.

It said, “It is apparent that the State did not wish to give details of the matter, for reasons known to it. It is incongruous that a constitutional authority should choose to deny basic factual information of the nature sought in the present case, which can be accessed even by a common citizen under the RTI to another constitutional authority to enable the latter to have the benefit of full and correct factual information to decide petitions filed before it.”

The Commission went on to expose the duplicity of the State’s stand to claim on one hand that the statues were built by the State while on the other, refusing to disclose the information to the EC. “By raising this objection, the party apparently obliterated any distinction between the Government and the party.”

Resting its hopes on the pending case before the apex court, the commission finally observed, “The Hon’ble Courts (Supreme Court and Allahabad HC) are examining the matters and decisions rendered by them would be binding on all authorities.”