New Delhi: The civic elections in Delhi have lost their carnival spirit, feel many political parties and candidates, due to the state election commission`s strict code of conduct which has banned poster campaigns and restricted the use of loudspeakers and the sale of liquor.
"Posters and hoardings were one of the easiest and most traditional ways to woo voters. But the election commission`s strict restriction has now made it all very difficult," lamented an independent candidate contesting the April 15 polls from east Delhi.
Rakesh Mehta, Delhi`s state election commissioner said: "If candidates are found defacing public or private properties by putting up posters or writing with ink or any other material, it won`t be tolerated. Putting up posters and banners on trees would also invite action under provisions of the Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act."
According to the Act, which came into force in March 2009, sticking of posters and banners and wall-writings on public properties is a cognizable offence. The penalty is a fine of up to Rs 50,000, a jail term of up to one year, or both.
Apart from punitive punishment, the election commission has already set up a poster removal squad for each of the 12 MCD zones.
"The real fun of the elections is missing and at every step, we need to be cautious. The usual celebratory mood and festivities like poster campaigns, loudspeakers with party songs, vehicles carrying candidates associated with elections have been dropped. It is turning out to be a drab affair. We can`t even keep the speakers out a little late in the night," a BJP party candidate, pleading anonymity said.
According to the state election commission, the candidates can use loudspeakers at a moderate volume only between 6 am and 10 pm. The sale and distribution of liquor will also be monitored during the election period. Liquor shops in the city will be shut April 13-15 and on April 17, the day the votes will be counted.
The BJP candidate also added that due to increased restrictions, many aspirants are reaching out via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
"Most of the candidates have their Facebook and Twitter pages and they upload all photos and reply to comments on their Facebook page, but how much ever you access the voters through cyber world, there is nothing like a poster as we get an opportunity to pose with top leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the locality," a Congress candidate from South Delhi added.
Meanwhile sources in different parties said that strict instructions have been laid down by the election commission that the expenditure limit of Rs 400,000 per candidate should not be exceeded. Even so, it`s an open secret that candidates will be quietly distributing freebies in the last few days of campaigning, which ends April 13.
The state election commission has also informed the candidates that the size of the party flags displayed on campaign vehicles should not exceed one-and-a-half-ft by one ft.
The banning of posters and hoardings and the fact that state election commission observers are keeping a strict vigil in each ward has been widely welcomed.
"Usually after elections, each and every wall in the capital is plastered with crores of posters. The task of cleaning up becomes difficult. But this time, by joining hands with election commission observers, we will not allow even a single election poster during civic polls," Col (retd) Shivraj Kumar, founder of the "Poster hatao" campaign, a citizen-centric initiative, said.
This will be the first election to the trifurcated Municipal Corporation of Delhi. While the corporations of north and south Delhi will each have 104 wards, there will be 64 wards in east Delhi. Fifty percent of the seats have been reserved for women.
Close to one crore voters will be eligible to cast their ballots on election day.