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EC trips in election bull-run

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AMIT GUPTA   |   Ranchi   |   Published 10.03.08, 12:00 AM

Ranchi, March 9: Bear, squirrel, peacock, buffalo, eagle, mongoose — all zoo inmates — have been let loose on the roads of the state capital, courtesy, the state election commission.

All these creatures have been allotted as election symbols to candidates in the civic poll fray.

Scarcity of election symbols after an overwhelming response from people to fight for the civic elections forced the state election commission to literally dig into alphabet books to hunt for symbols.

And in the rush, the state commission even allotted symbols that are by principle not allotted even by the Election Commission of India (ECI) due to objections raised by animal rights activists.

Samir Toppo, a contender for the ward commissioner’s post in ward number 6 under Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), is fighting the election on a bear symbol.

So is Shobha Khalko, a contender in ward number 21, who has been allotted a squirrel symbol. Many other contestants for the posts of mayor, deputy mayor and ward commissioners have been allotted animal election symbols.

The ECI, in 1991, had stopped allotting animals as symbols for polls after animal rights activists complained that parties were parading these creatures during campaigns and in turn subjecting them to cruelty. The only exceptions are the lion (Forward Bloc symbol) and the elephant (Bahujan Samaj Party) that were being used by respective parties since the last many decades.

“We have not received any specific order from the ECI on whether or not names and logos of animals and birds can be utilised as election symbols by candidates for campaigning,” said S.B. Prasad, the secretary of state election commission.

Moreover, senior officials of the state election commission, while pleading guilty, said that the symbols are not given forever and the same mistake would not be repeated.

“We were flummoxed after we realised that we had to arrange for as many as 88 poll symbols just for nominees for the RMC deputy mayor’s post. We had to scour children’s alphabet books and decide on the maximum number of symbols.”

Vijay Sharma, an election campaign material trader from Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh), said: “The commission here apparently does not know that barring a few exceptions, animals and birds as poll symbols cannot be used. But we got to know that restricted poll symbols were allotted as the number of candidates swelled beyond limit. I, however, do not have campaign materials for some of these restricted symbols.”


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