At a time when the entire poll campaign of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) revolves around its ‘Raj nahi, sewa’ (Service, not rule) slogan, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has forced the Punjab government to stop using it. The slogan already is not being used in government advertisements following ECI directive to the chief secretary last week. ‘Raj nahi, sewa’ has been the prime slogan of the ruling Akali-BJP government for the last 10 years.
Director, public relations, Senu Duggal, confirmed to HT that as per the ECI directive, they have stopped using the slogan in government public-relation campaigns.
The SAD-BJP government led by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has been using the ‘Raj nahi, sewa’ slogan for almost all schemes. One can find the words written on newly constructed toilets, Atta Dal Scheme cards, sewa kendras, government buildings and advertisements. The slogan is also there on sports kits distributed among the youth clubs and utensils among the rural families.
“No party shall either use or allow the use of any public funds or public place or government machinery in carrying out any activity that would amount to advertisement for the party or propagating the election symbol allotted to the party,” reads the ECI letter to Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal, who reportedly passed the directions to the officers concerned for implementation. The ECI directive is based on Delhi High Court’s judgment in ‘Common Cause vs Bahujan Samaj Party’ case.
“Though we got the letter, but there are no specific directions to remove ‘Raj nahi, sewa’ slogan. However, we have verbally been told that the slogan should either be removed or covered during government functions,” said a deputy commissioner, requesting anonymity.
The Congress had taken up the issue with the chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi during his visit to Chandigarh recently. Another official said the ECI directive has sent the department heads in a tizzy, as the slogan is everywhere—on toilets, benches, shelters, bicycles and ration cards. “It is hard to remove it from everywhere and we have started covering it at government functions,” he said.
Congress leader Brahm Mohindra said he had taken up the matter with the ECI and the government was wilfully violating the Delhi high court judgment by not passing clear directions to the officers to remove the slogan. “It (Raj nahi, sewa) is a SAD slogan, not that of Punjab government. It can’t be propagated at public expense,” he said.
Chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal could not be contacted for a comment. Punjab’s chief electoral officer VK Singh said his office will take charge once the code of conduct comes into force.