The Election Commission of India (EC) has announced the full schedule of the Assembly polls to be held in Goa, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, thereby resulting in the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct — also known as the poll code — in these states.
It is now upon the state election commissions to ensure that political parties do not take undue advantage of being in power in these states. The poll code will also ensure that the opposition political parties do not use any unfair means to campaign for votes for their candidates.
Here are 8 things that the political parties are banned from doing, thanks to the Model Code of Conduct that came into effect with Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announcing the poll schedule on Wednesday, January 4:
1. Defacing government property. According to an official statement from the poll panel: "All wall writing, posters, papers or defacement in any other form, cut-out, hoardings, banners, flags etc., on government property shall be removed within 24 hours from the announcement of elections."
2. Defacing public property. Even this is a strict no-no for political parties. The EC says: "All unauthorised political advertisement, in the form of wall writing, posters, papers or defacement in any other form, cut-out or hoardings, banners, flags etc., at public property and in public space like railway stations, bus stands, airports, railway bridges, roadways, government buses, electric or telephone poles, municipal or local bodies' buildings etc, shall be removed within 48 hours from the announcement of elections by the commission."
3. Defacing private property. Of course, private property is off-limits as well. The poll panel says: "All unauthorised political advertisement displayed at private property and subject to local law and court's directions, if any, shall be removed within 72 hours from the announcement of elections by the commission."
4. Misusing official vehicles. This is something political parties in power can do, so the EC has called for a "total ban on use of official vehicle by any political party, candidate or any other person connected with election (except officials performing any election related official duty) for campaigning, electioneering or election related travel during elections (subject to certain exception mentioned therein)."
5. Using government funds for political advertising. This, again, is something a party in power would do. So, the rules say: "Cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media and the misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided."
6. Putting photos of political functionary on official websites. The EC says: "All references of ministers, politicians or political parties available on central or state government's official websites shall be removed."
7. Spending indiscriminately. The poll panel has strict rules on how much a political part or a candidate can spend for his or her poll campaign. It says: "Flying squad, FSI video teams, intensive checking for liquor, cash or contraband drugs, flying squads of the Excise Department to check illicit trafficking of drugs or to be immediately activated after the announcement."
8. Start construction activity. There are a few things better than a new construction to convince the public that the incumbent government is a competent one, and was doing its work before the polls were announced. Hence, this restriction.