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Vol. XXXIII No. 23, March 16-31, 2024

It is election time – guard your compound walls

-- by Sriram V.

By the time this issue reaches the readers, the dates of the general election to the 18th Lok Sabha will most likely have been announced. Which means the model code of conduct would have kicked in. Which in turn means compound walls of private and public properties cannot be defaced by poll graffiti and posters. That at least is so on paper. Ground reality of course is completely different. It is amazing that Chennai which is often prefixed by the word Singara by political dispensations is in reality treated very differently.

Chances are that your walls have already seen the worst. For realising that the model code is a deterrent of sorts (only if the affected party complains by the way), the slug fest in terms of posters happens just as talk of elections gather momentum, reaches a peak before the announcement of dates and declines to an extent during the actual campaigning process. In this the peak coincides with the phase when political leaders, those in power that is, embark on a foundation stone laying and inaugural plaque unveiling spree while those in Opposition vent their spleen at such goings on knowing fully well that they would do the same thing when in power.

But to get back to the posters and graffiti. As always, there is a law that protects private property owners from such defacement. “No Political Party or candidate shall permit its or his followers to make use of any individual’s land, building, compound wall etc., without his permission , for erecting flag-staffs, suspending banners, pasting notices, writing slogans etc.” says clause 6 of the Model Code of Conduct for Political Parties and their Candidates, released by the Election Commission of India. And even if that were not yet in effect, the State of Tamil Nadu has another law. This is the Tamil Nadu Open Places (Prevention of disfigurement) Act, 1959, as per which graffiti on private walls are not permissible at any point of time, elections or not. Now try telling our political parties this.

It is not just defacement of walls. There are other forms of damage, the most common one being driving down wooden poles into footpaths so that vinyl hoardings can be erected for political meetings. And we also will have political bunting strung across streets making it hazardous for two-wheeler riders in particular. In addition noise pollution by way of installing outsize amplifiers and speakers at venues are other nuisances. Thankfully these days, electoral meetings at least in the city wind up by 10.00 pm owing to strict monitoring. And cone speakers seem to have vanished. These apparently still flourish in the mofussil.

It is ultimately the Greater Chennai Corporation that is left to carry the can. As it is the body that is responsible for the conduct of the elections, it also is tasked with removing all the posters when the code of conduct comes into effect. It also has to cover all graffiti on private walls with its regulation pink paint. And when elections are over, counting is done and the celebrations have been held, it has to repair the damage to all footpaths and public locations in general. All of which costs money and which in turn means funds for some other essential activity such as education or health or sanitation are reduced.

It is high time that conduct outside of poll season and responsible behaviour during campaigning becomes part of our political system. And the Election Commission needs to develop the wherewithal to check such violations apart from its overall responsibility to curb other bending of rules. Or is this a not-so-subtle message to the effect that the middle classes, the bulk of the tax-paying populace and the most affected by defacement of property and invasion of tranquillity do not matter at all in the electoral scheme of things?

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Comments

  1. Rangarajan. S.v. says:

    Thanks for updating the news to safeguard our wall.

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