Every set of elections has its share of controversies and criticisms and the ones that took place in late-2011 and early-2012 were no exception. In some cases, I found myself being personally attacked in sections of the media. One such controversy related to the Commission’s decision to cover the statues of Mayawati (then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh) and statues of elephants—the election symbol of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which she heads—located in public parks that had been built using public funds.
The Commission’s decision was attacked not so much by BSP functionaries and supporters but a section of the media. Even some senior journalists made flippant remarks like why did the Commission not ban the use of bicycles (the election symbol of the Samajwadi Party) or ban lotuses (the symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party), or cover everyone’s hand with gloves (hands being the symbol of the Indian National Congress)? Some questioned the expenditure this exercise would involve. Eminent media leader and columnist Karan Thapar in his ‘Sunday Sentiments’ (Hindustan Times, 29 January 2012) wrote a critical analysis under the title ‘So wrong, So long’ in which he questioned the merit of the decision and wondered why we often make the wrong decisions?
All of them missed the larger perspective. The facts of the matter are that some people had petitioned the Supreme Court to ask the UP government to stop the construction of the statues of the chief minister and the elephants at public parks, at public expense. It was also demanded that the elephant, as the party’s symbol, should be frozen because these statues in their hundreds, would be a permanent advertisement for the party at public expense, disturbing the level playing field among political parties. The Supreme Court referred the matter of the party symbol to the ECI.