Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad’s tum-tums or horse-drawn carriages, in a response to the BJP’s ‘rath’ (chariot), have met with resistance from the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). The crusader for animal rights has flagged the issue with the election commission, seeking their intervention to stop use of animals in campaigning.
Lalu Prasad had recently announced plans to use 1,000 horses to pull tum-tums during the party’s campaign in the upcoming elections in Bihar. These are in response to the 160 odd BJP ‘raths’, which are essentially motorised vehicles. A 2012 advisory by the Election Commission of India (ECI) clearly asks political parties to refrain from using animals for political campaigns.
Drawing upon it, Peta India chief executive officer Poorva Joshipura said, “Political parties should try to garner support through ideas, not by parading around vulnerable animals. Peta India calls for a halt to RJD plan to use tumtums - and the plans of any political party to use animals during election campaigns.”
The Peta India points out in its letter that animals used in political campaigns are often forced into the middle of screaming crowds, which they find terrifying, and are easily spooked by loud noises, which creates risk of serious injury to both themselves and people.
The Election Commission will take a call whether RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s tum-tums (horse-drawn carriages) continue to roll for canvassing in Bihar polls later this year.
RJD media in-charge Pragati Mehta, however had a different take on it. Talking to HT, he said, “We are not inflicting any cruelty on animals. Tum-tums are part of an age old tradition and are still used in villages as a mode of conveyance. In fact, Lalu ji has been sympathetic towards animals and has committed to pay Rs 500 per day per tum-tum to the owners for animal feed and upkeep for use in campaigning. Even as railway minister, he had introduced ‘kulhars’ (earthen cup), instead of plastic ones, for tea on trains, to promote livelihood of rural artisans, more specifically potters.”
Additional chief electoral officer, Bihar, R Lakshmanan told HT, “We have received a representation from the Peta. We are examining it. We will take a call based on the directions of the commission on use of animals in campaigning as against the instance that has been pointed out.”