New Delhi, Jan 19 The Election Commission Wednesday rejected the Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) plea to reconsider its Jan 8 order to cover statues of elephants and party chief Mayawati, built in public places and at government expense, until the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh are over.
It also expressed dismay at party chief and state Chief Minister Mayawati terming the decision "casteist" and "anti-Dalit".
"The EC needs to reiterate that it takes its decisions and enforces them within the provisions of the Constitution and that does not include considerations of religion, race, caste and community in the manner allege," the poll panel said in a release.
It said that its order is in accordance with the law and in keeping with its constitutional mandate for ensuring level playing field during the elections.
The poll panel said the BSP's contention that the statues of elephants as erected are different from the election symbol of party is not acceptable. "In that case, other political parties would be in a position to seek allotment of the elephant symbol in different posture," it said.
It said it is disturbed that Mayawati has cast serious aspersions on the commission by attributing anti-Dalit and casteist motives to its order and also by alleging that the directive is inspired by pressure from some political parties.
"The EC regrets that such an allegation was made and rejects it. It expects a higher sense of responsibility and constitutional decorum from major political parties and their leaders. It notes with concern such statements coming from those holding senior Constitutional positions," said the release.
The panel maintained its order "is in conformity with the Commission's consistent practice to remove photographs, pictures of active political leaders at all public places, put up at the cost of public exchequer, so that there is no undue advantage or disadvantage to political parties and candidates."
"There are standing instructions of the Commission, again reiterated in 2009, that images and photographs of Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Ministers and other political functionaries who are active in public life should not be displayed in government buildings and premises as that would have the effect of disturbing the level playing field."
"The statues depicting any party symbol and put up in public places at the cost of public money would also come in this category."
Stating that any charge of discrimination on this ground can only be ill-founded, the EC said: "Commission's enforcement only relates to statues of living leaders of political parties who are still active in politics and not leaders of the past. That is why statues of several icons, including that of late Kanshi Ram as well as of other parties, have not been ordered to be covered."
The EC said it has asked state administration to bring, to the commission's attention, statues of other political parties standing on similar footing and which have been erected at government cost so that appropriate action can be initiated.