Negative ad by ruling Indian party banned

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NEW DELHI--The Election Commission of India has rapped the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu-nationalist party that dominates the ruling government, for releasing an ad that violated the model code of conduct.

Released November 22, the BJP ad took potshots at the Indian National Congress by linking its rival to nefarious Indian and foreign individuals either implicated or indicted for crimes, terrorism and frauds com- mitted in India. The ad's release coincides with the November 25 mid-term elections in four Indian states, where the BJP is likely to lose control, according to opinion polls.

The commission, an impartial watchdog established by India's parliament for running and monitoring the polls, banned the BJP-crafted ad from further release in other national or regional newspapers. This is the first such ban on ads created by a ruling party.

"The Commission deplores the advertisement, and desires that [the] election campaign be maintained at the highest principled level, focusing on policies and programs," says the independent watchdog in an admonishing letter to the BJP that was released to the press.

The Commission acted on a complaint filed by the Congress party, which accuses the BJP of panic and frustration. The Hindu nationalists ruling India since early this year are being blamed for an unprecedented price rise and rising inflation. The BJP in May conducted five nuclear tests that attracted U.S. and international sanctions.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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