With Gujarat Assembly elections on the horizon, Rajkot city unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched a drive to paint its election symbol lotus on walls that is now targeting public offices and parks in the city.
Terming the move â€œinappropriateâ€, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has announced to follow suit if the authorities donâ€™t take action against the ruling party.
Kamlesh Mirani, president of the Rajkot city unit of BJP launched the campaign on Monday by painting on a lotus sketch at the entrance of the party office in Karanpara.
The state wide campaign was launched by state BJP president CR Paatil from Ahmedabad and Surat on March 13 where he and other leaders painted party slogans on public walls.
By late morning on Tuesday, saffron-coloured lotus paintings dotted the entrance of Race Course garden in Rajkot as well as the compound wall of Bahumali Bhavan on Race Course Ring Road that houses government offices.
â€œAs per instructions from the state leadership, we have launched the drive to paint lotus symbol on city walls. The campaign will go on till March 31,â€ Mirani told The Indian Express.
â€œWe have given a contract for the work to one person per wardâ€¦ for an average 10 to 12 paintings every day,â€ he added.
State assembly elections are scheduled to be held towards the end of this year and the BJP, which has been in power in the state for almost 25 years, has started its groundwork. Ratnakar, secretary (organisation) of the BJPâ€™s Gujarat state unit chaired a meeting of the partyâ€™s district unit office-bearers from Saurashtra region, in Rajkot on Monday.
The Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) has 18 administrative wards. Rajkot city has been a BJP bastion for two decades and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), too, has a strong network in the city, which is popularly called the capital of Saurashtra.
On the reason behind the BJP drawing its election symbols even on walls of public buildings and parks, Mirani said, â€œIt is not easy to get walls in cities for such paintings. Therefore, we are drawing paintings on the walls of premises belonging to our workers and well-wishers after getting their consent.â€
Claiming that it is nothing new, Mirani added, â€œWe do it before every election. Once the elections are formally announced, the Election Commission of India whitewashes them.â€
Shivlal Barasiya, president of Rajkot unit of AAP, objected to the BJPâ€™s move and said, â€œThis is not the right use of public property and officials concerned should take appropriate action.â€
Talking to media persons, Barasiya said, â€œIf one party does it, other parties can think they have deemed NOC (no-objection certificate) to do the same. If we receive instructions from our state leadership, we will also do itâ€¦ government property is meant for all.â€
While the Bahumali Bhavan houses district-level offices of the state government, the Narmada dam replica in its foreground has been developed by the RMC, which is presently ruled by the BJP.
The Race Course garden is also owned by the RMC and Section 245 of the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations (GPMC) Act prohibits third-party advertisements on any premises, including private buildings, without prior permission of the respective municipal commissioners.
â€œNo person shall, without the written permission of the Commissioner, erect, exhibit, fix or retain any advertisement upon any land, building, wall, hoarding or structure,â€ the section reads.
However, the GPMC Act Section 245 further provides that commissionerâ€™s permission is not required in certain cases, including a business or industry advertising itself from the premises it functions on.
â€œProvided always that such permission shall not be necessary in respect of any advertisement which is not illuminated advertisement or a sky-sign and which (a) is exhibited within the window of any building, or (b) relates to the trade or business carried on within the land or building upon which such advertisement is exhibited or to any sale or letting of such land or building or any effects therein, or to any sale, entertainment or meeting to be held upon or in the same, or to the trade or business carried on by the owner of any omnibus or other vehicle upon which such advertisement is exhibited, or (c) relates to the business of any railway company, or (d) is exhibited within any railway station or upon any wall or property of a Railway Administration not fronting any streets,â€ reads the Section.
About the lotus paintings on walls of RMC properties, Rajkot mayor Pradip Dav said, â€œI will bring this to the notice of the officials. I personally believe that this canâ€™t be done on walls of government propertyâ€¦ walls of government buildings are where space is available as compared to private premises and it is possible that painters engaged by the party could have therefore chosen them.â€