Even as lack of funds and volunteer force pose a hurdle for citizen candidates, the State Election Commission’s (SEC) decision to defer the allotment of election symbols to independent candidates could hit their campaign further.
The SEC announced that the symbols would be given to independent campaigns on February 6, instead of the earlier date, February 4.
“It is clear discrimination on part of the SEC to give independent candidates only eight days to campaign before the elections,” said Akalpita Paranjpe, member of forum Mumbai 227, which has launched citizen candidates in several wards.
More than 40 of the 65 candidates fielded by Mumbai 227 presented a request letter to the state election commissioner, Neela Satyanarayan, on Friday, to reconsider her decision. “The election officers, however, told us that it’s unlikely to change. They maintained that the situation is unfortunate but they are abiding by the law, and that there cannot be any relief in this matter,” said Santosh Awatramani, spokesperson, Mumbai 227. He said campaign plans would be gravely affected as candidates would have only six days for propoganda and distribution of pamphlets.
The forum also tried to seek legal resort in the issue, but the court dismissed their petition on grounds that it cannot intervene in the SEC’s functioning at this stage of the poll process.
Hansel D’souza, convenor of Mumbai Nagrik Manch, which is fielding three citizen candidates, echoed Mumbai 227’s views. “Symbols should be given out at least fifteen days in advance. We are at a huge disadvantage as voters are already aware of the art of political parties,” said Hansel.
Adolf D’souza, the city’s first citizen candidate and convenor of the forum, Mumbai Nagriksatta called the SEC’s decision unfair. “On the voting machine, you only have the candidate’s name and symbol. To make voters aware of our symbols is very important. But this is how things have been and we have to cope.”