Aam Aadmi Party today complained to the Delhi Election Commission that its campaign for Assembly polls had virtually come to a standstill due to delays in getting 'No Objection Certificates' (NoCs) for rallies and "arbitrary" changes in the Model Code of Conduct.
Senior lawyer and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan today met Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Vijay Dev and alleged that his party's campaign had been hit hard as they required NOCs from multiple agencies and the "single-window facility set up by the EC for obtaining NOCs was yet to become functional".
"Our volunteers keep running from one office to another to seek approvals, but they are hard to get. This has virtually put a stop on our public meetings," Bhushan said.
Claiming that the Election Commission lacked a clear-cut policy about the use of cheaper means of campaigning, AAP spokesperson Manish Sisodia said, "We are caught between the use of cheaper and costlier means of campaigning."
"The EC has policy to monitor use of expensive means of campaigning, but not cheaper means like canvassing through rickshaw mounted with loudspeaker, use of projector for street-corner meetings or through hand-held microphone," he said, adding they were "unable to bear the cost of hoardings".
Sisodia alleged some rules of the Model Code were being "arbitrarily" tweaked by the junior staff. "Like permission to use loudspeaker mounted on rickshaw for four hours was reduced to two hours arbitrarily by the staff," he claimed.
Bhushan said the Model Code of Conduct doesn't mean that one can't conduct legitimate and legal campaign. "Every one has the Right to Freedom of Speech and if we are being stopped from doing that then it is unconstitutional," he said.
Bhushan alleged in the name of implementing the Model Code the authorities were imposing too many restrictions like ban on sticking posters on auto-rickshaws and volunteers' houses and publicising slogans on T-shirts and caps.
The Chief Electoral Officer had earlier announced that co-ordination committees and single-window facilities would be set up in each district to facilitate obtaining of NOCs for public meeting, rallies and 'padayatras', he said.
The agencies issuing NOCs will have to decide within 24 hours of receiving an application, he suggested, adding "if no reply comes forward from the agency then it should be deemed approved".
Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev said political parties were free to campaign and all mechanisms were in place to facilitate them.
"The single-windows facilities are functional and the benefits will be visible in the coming few days. We have streamlined the process and parties will find it easier to get NOCs," Dev said, adding there would, however, be no relaxation in getting NOCs from the fire department, local bodies and power department.
"All criteria will have to be met for holding rallies and public meetings by political parties and in no way any concession will be given in those set rules," he said.
Meanwhile, AAP has announced Jitendra Singh Tomar as its candidate from the Tri Nagar Assembly constituency.
Yesterday, it had removed Surendra Sharma, who was initially selected as the AAP candidate from the Shahadara Assembly constituency, saying the action was taken as Sharma had failed to disclose that there were criminal cases lodged and FIR's pending against him.
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