With Gujarat Assembly elections on the horizon, the Rajkot municipal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched a campaign to paint its election symbol, the lotus on the walls, which now targets public offices and city parks.
Describing the decision as “inappropriate”, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced that it would do the same if the authorities did not take action against the ruling party.
Kamlesh Mirani, chairman of the BJP’s Rajkot municipal unit, kicked off the campaign on Monday by painting a sketch of a lotus at the entrance to the party’s office in Karanpara.
The statewide campaign was launched by BJP Chairman CR Paatil of Ahmedabad and Surat on March 13, where he and other leaders painted party slogans on public walls .
By late Tuesday morning, saffron-colored lotus paintings dotted the entrance to the Rajkot Racecourse garden as well as the perimeter wall of Bahumali Bhavan on Race Course Ring Road which houses government offices.
“As directed by the state leadership, we have started the campaign to paint the lotus symbol on the city walls. The campaign will continue till March 31,” Mirani told The Indian Express.
“We have given a contract for the work to one person per department … for an average of 10 to 12 paintings per day,” he added.
Elections for the state assembly are due 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 substantive work. Ratnakar, Secretary (Organization) of the BJP’s Gujarat State Unit, chaired a meeting of the party’s district unit officials from Saurashtra region in Rajkot on Monday.
The Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) has 18 administrative wards. The city of Rajkot has been a BJP stronghold for two decades and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also has a strong network in the city, commonly referred to as the capital of Saurashtra.
On why the BJP draws its election symbols even on the walls of public buildings and parks, Mirani said, “It is not easy to get walls in cities for such paintings. Therefore, we draw paintings on the walls of the premises belonging to our workers and supporters after obtaining their consent.
Stating that this is not new, Mirani added: “We do this before every election. Once the elections are officially announced, the Election Commission of India clears them.
Shivlal Barasiya, chairman of the AAP’s Rajkot unit, objected to the BJP’s decision and said, “It is not the proper use of public property and the officials concerned should take appropriate action.”
Speaking to reporters, Barasiya said, “If one party does it, the other parties may think they have judged the NOC (no objection certificate) to do the same. If we receive direction from the leadership of our state, so will we…government property is for everyone.
While the Bahumali Bhavan houses state government offices at the district level, the replica of the Narmada Dam in the foreground was developed by the RMC, which is currently led by the BJP.
The Hippodrome Garden is also owned by the RMC and Section 245 of the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act (GPMC) prohibits third party advertisements at any premises including private buildings without the prior permission of the respective municipal commissioners.
“No person shall, without the written permission of the commissioner, erect, display, fix or retain any advertisement on any land, building, wall, palisade or structure,” the article states.
However, Section 245 of the GPMC Act further provides that the permission of the Commissioner is not required in certain cases, such as when a business or industry advertises from the premises in which it operates.
“Provided always that such permission shall not be required in respect of any advertisement which is not an illuminated advertisement or sky sign and which (a) is displayed in the window of a building, or (b ) relates to the trade or business carried on within the land or building on which such advertisement is displayed or to any sale or rental of such land or building or its effects, or to any sale, entertainment or meeting to be stand on or in the same, or in the trade or business carried on by the owner of any omnibus or other vehicle on which such advertising is displayed, or (c) relates to the business of any railroad company, or (d) is displayed in a railway station or on any wall or property of a Railway administration does not face any street,” the section reads.
On the lotus paintings on the walls of RMC properties, Rajkot Mayor Pradip Dav said, “I will inform the officials. I personally believe that this cannot be done on the walls of government property… the walls of government buildings are where space is available relative to private premises and it is possible that painters hired by the party will therefore have them choose.