In a significant move that would certainly embarrass the office of the President of India, the Amravati mayor and the Congress leader, Ashok Dongre submitted a memorandum to the chief election commissioner, Naveen Chawla and the district returning officer, Richa Bagla to remove the photos of President Pratibha Patil from government offices till the elections. The appeal was made against the backdrop of President's on Rajendra Shekhawat contesting from the Amravati Assembly constituency.
The Congress has fielded Shekhawat, son of President from Amravati by denying the ticket to sitting MLA from the constituency and the former minister of state for Finance, Sunil Deshmukh. While submitting the memorandum, Dongre, who is also a trusted lieutenant of Congress rebel Deshmukh, said that the state should either remove or cover all photos of President in all government, semi-government offices and educational institutions since the model code of conduct, is in force and her son is in the fray.
In his letter, the mayor said that the model code of conduct makes it mandatory on the enforcing machinery to wipe out every small trace of the candidates' identity in any form at any public building, public place or even at any government office or establishment in order to ensure free and fair elections.
"However, it has come to the notice that portraits and photos of President Pratibha Patil are hung on walls at all government, semi-government offices, co-operative and educational institutions." As the people visit the public places, there is a strong possibility of their getting influenced by photos of the President to vote for her son, Dongre pointed out.
This, according to the Amravati Mayor, amounts to violation of model code of conduct. "Just boards displaying works done by MLAs, MPs and political parties are either removed during the elections, the same should be done with Patil's photos till the model code of conduct is in force," he added.
The former mayor and a staunch supporter of Deshmukh, Milind Chimote and the state Congress general secretary Shankarrao Hingasapure endorsed the Amravati mayor.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Dongre said, "We will wait for couple of days for the action from the election commissioner. If the photos are not removed, we will go to Delhi to meet Chawla in this regard."