Campaign Pains

Linked with Shabnam Hashmi – India.

Published on TEHELKA, by , May 17, 2008.

A coalition of 150 NGOs campaigning against the BJP in poll-bound Karnataka have run afoul of the State Election Commission.

POLITICAL PARTIES are not the only ones engaged in a pitched battle in election bound Karnataka. People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) – a statewide coalition comprising 150 NGOs that work on a range of issues from Dalit and women’s rights to farmers’ issues, caste politics and labour – is actively engaged in campaigning against what it calls the BJPs ‘communal agenda’. Says KL Ashok, a PAD convenor, “We have no doubt that the BJP is a communal party committed to treating Dalits, Muslims, women and the working masses as second-class citizens. We have seen what they did in 20 months when they were in power in Karnataka. We are saying – never again!” …

… When the coalition obtained copies of the SC order, they found that it had nothing to do with their case, and instead pertained to cable television advertisements by Gujarat political parties during elections. When PAD representatives reverted to the CEO, he was apologetic but held that having submitted the poster for clearance, they had no choice but to wait for the ECI’S decision. With first phase of polling starting on on May 10, the coalition representatives are infuriated, but so far the only reply they have received from the SEC is that the matter is pending due to delays with the ECI in New Delhi.

ELECTION COMMISSIONER Dr SY Quraishi, told TEHELKA that, “PAD is free to do their campaigning; provided they don’t say that BJP is a communal party. That is a specific allegation. But they are free to ask voters to not vote for communal parties.” He also categorically stated that the ECI had conveyed this to the Karnataka SEC during their last visit to Bangalore. But Karnataka’s Joint Chief Election Commissioner BV Kulkarni, says they are “still waiting to hear from the ECI.”

Shabnam Hashmi, member, National Integration Council, who has undertaken similar campaigns in Gujarat, and who also wrote to the ECI on the PAD issue, believes that the organisation should simply get on with the task. “For eight months we carried a strong anti-BJP and anti-Modi campaign. There were cases against us. You can’t keep rushing to officials to get their stamp of approval every time.”

PAD is doing just that. Tired of official dillydallying, they have proceeded with their campaign — albeit in different ways. (full text).

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