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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 16 April 2024

Lok Sabha polls: Bengal BJP to seek consent from homeowners before putting political messages on walls

Spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya to check for cultural faux pas in party leaders' speeches

Saibal Gupta Calcutta Published 12.01.24, 05:09 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File picture

The Bengal BJP has decided to seek consent from homeowners before putting political messages on the walls of their properties in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The decision, if implemented properly, might cause a big shift in Bengal’s outdoor poll campaign model.

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The state BJP leadership during a meeting earlier this week directed its 101-member election management team to advise the party workers to secure a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from homeowners before using any part of their premises to showcase any political message.

“There have been a lot of problems in the past over wall writing or using private property to display political messages. We do not want any further disturbances on this. We have asked all our workers to follow the guidelines laid down by the Election Commission of India. We expect other political parties to do the same,” a senior BJP leader said.

Under directives from the poll panel, the use of public property or premises for wall writing or displaying any political messages is prohibited. However, on private property, political parties can write political messages or graffiti, as well as paste their posters but only after written permission from the property owner.

“The Election Commission has explicitly stated that political parties are responsible for cleaning the walls after the election. However, in numerous instances, this post-election cleanup does not occur. Lack of complaints from property owners makes it challenging for us to take any corrective measure,” an election commission official said.

Bengal has a contentious history when it comes to wall writing, marked by numerous clashes over wall ownership.

The prevalent practice in Bengal involves political parties whitewashing a section of the wall of a house before elections and inscribing their party’s name or symbol at the bottom, marking their claim to that particular part of the wall.

However, it is often alleged that the dominant political party of the day forcibly seizes the walls, leaving little room for the Opposition or even house owners to oppose it.

A BJP leader said that although The Prevention of Defacement of Property Act was in place, “no one follows it”.

“However, we will follow it as much as possible. We want to bring a new culture to Bengal. We have asked all our workers to start the process of taking walls only after (homeowner) consent. Once that is done, we will start our wall campaigning,” the BJP leader said.

Trinamul MLA Tapas Roy said the BJP wasn't saying anything new. “It is a standing instruction by the election commission and we always follow the rules. The BJP cannot bring anything new to Bengal,” Roy said.

On the clashes over wall writing, the Trinamul MLA added: “There may be some sporadic clashes but nothing big.”

CPM leaders also said that the Act against defacement of property was not recent and all parties needed to follow it.

“The provisions of the Act prohibit defacement of any public property. For private property, individuals must obtain written consent from the owner,” said CPM state secretary Md Salim.

Though all political parties agree in principle, implementation of the Act has always been a challenge not only for the political parties but for the poll panel too as political parties have not tried to educate their cadres about it.

The Bengal unit of the BJP, however, is trying to bring in a change, said its party sources. “We are in the process of preparing a form for this purpose. The owner can either give us written consent or sign the form prepared by us after which we will use his walls for our campaign,” the BJP source added.

A senior BJP leader stressed the need for a cultural shift in how the party conducts its campaign through speeches, rallies and political events in the state by weaving in the Bengali ethos.

This time, the BJP has assigned the task of drafting speeches for leaders from other parts of the country to the state’s senior party spokesperson, Samik Bhattacharya, known for his expertise in matters related to Bengali culture.

“A designated division, named Talking Point, will review all speeches and create drafts of talking points for the leaders to prevent the possibility of any major faux pas,” said a source. "We can't afford any faux pas before the Lok Sabha polls."

The BJP's visiting leaders, without much knowledge of Bengali culture and its icons, have caused embarrassment in the past. For instance, national party president J.P. Nadda had stated that Rabindranath Tagore was born in Santiniketan.

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