For the Election Commission, Holi seems to make the poll festival unholy.
The EC had in March 2009 pulled up Mulayam Singh Yadav for ‘soliciting votes’ with cash after Samajwadi Party workers distributed Rs 100 notes among supporters at a Holi Milan function organised at his native village Saifai.
“Money was given to drummers,” Yadav had replied. Nothing happened except that all Holi Milan functions were banned.
Every Holi, the Yadav family assembles at Saifai in Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district. It was in the festival’s 2012 edition that SP revived the ‘Mulayam as PM’ slogan after eight years.
This year will be no different for UP’s first family. Neither for the EC, expected to watch out for anything beyond colour-splashing.
Other parties too are accused of making the most of the festivities, offering entertainment, liquor, bhang and sweets besides cash.
Bhartiya Janata Party, which swore by Holi Milan functions until the EC ban in 2009, reportedly has plans to organise them in different forms. The party’s Yogi Adityanath, who as the head of Gorakhnah peeth decides when Holi will be played in Gorakhpur, said: “I lead a procession of 50,000 people every Holi. It’s our tradition. Who can object to that?”
Elsewhere, special laddoos and contact sports contests offer opportunities for splurging.
“Every village of Mathura has a tradition of holding wrestling matches after Holi. The winner gets a cash prize. With elections round the corner, the prize money will increase from Rs 1,100 to Rs 11,000,” a senior Rashtriya Lok Dal leader said seeking anonymity.
Sensing misconduct, the EC has alerted surveillance teams. “We are ready with our cameras in view of past complaints about all types of allurements in the name of festivities. We have forewarned leaders and parties to resist from such unholy practices,” Umesh Sinha, chief electoral officer, said.
Some leaders, understandably, have decided to restrict their public interactions to Holi hugs. “Meeting people and embracing them at numerous Holi Milan functions makes a lot of difference,” said Congress leader Ajai Rai.
But most agree that the ‘social pressure’ is often too much to adhere to rules.
The name of the game, it appears, is to evade the EC out to do ‘rang mein bhang’ (play spoilsport).