New Delhi: Ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday issued an advisory to all national and state political parties of the country asking them to ‘desist from displaying photographs of Defence personnel or photographs of functions involving Defence personnel in advertisements, or otherwise as part of their campaigning’.

The statement by EC read, “The photographs of Chief of Army Staff or any other defence personnel, and photographs of functions of defence forces should not be associated with or used in any manner in advertisement/propaganda/campaigning or in any other manner in connection with elections by political parties and candidates.”

The EC had issued the same instructions in 2013 and asked the political parties to refrain using such propaganda. The development came after the Ministry of Defence had brought it to the notice of the autonomous body that photographs of the defence personnel are being used by political parties as part of their election propaganda.

Reportedly, a banner featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah with Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was seen in Delhi’s Mehrauli area on Saturday. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too had made a direct reference to IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman during a rally recently.

Earlier on Friday, former Navy chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas had appealed to the Election Committee to prevent the misuse of  Indian Armed Force for winning the elections. He had said, “I am sure that you are well aware that the Armed Forces have always taken pride themselves on belonging to a structure, an ethos and environment which has been both a-political and secular. With elections due a few weeks from now, it is particularly important that there should not be any misuse of these recent events by any political party to send triumphalist or jingoistic messages which can influence the electorate.”

Ramdas had raised his concerns by writing a letter to the Election Committee stating how such propaganda had the potential to destroy the foundation and value system of Armed Forces.

Wing Commander Varthaman, had shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft on February 27 when India had carried the pre-emptive airstrike on Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) camp in Pakistan’s Balakot. During the airstrike, his plane was also shot down and he was taken in captivity by Pakistan. The IAF pilot was released on March 1.