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As officials rush to drape elephants, EC order challenged in HC
Shahira Naim and agencies

n The EC wants statues of elephants and those of Chief Minister Mayawati covered by 5 pm on January 11
n State govt officials are struggling to meet the deadline as there is confusion over who would do the job and which govt agency would bear the cost
n In his plea, advocate Anil Singh said in Hindu religion, the elephant is a symbol of Lord Ganesha and covering it for such a long period may hurt the religious sentiment of the Hindus 

Lucknow, January 9
A Public Interest Litigation challenging Election Commission's order to cover statues of the elephant the ruling BSP's poll symbol was today filed in the Allahabad High Court as authorities took up the onerous task of draping scores of such statues in Lucknow and elsewhere in the state.

In Delhi, Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi dismissed criticism against its decision, calling it "ill-informed." "I am surprised this (EC order) has been taken as something unusual. There is a model code of conduct which says there should be a level-playing field for all candidates and parties," he told a TV channel.

In Allahabad, Dheeraj Singh, a social activist, filed a PIL challenging the EC order. The PIL contended that the elephant represented venerable Hindu deity Lord Ganesha and draping its statues could hurt religious sentiments. The petition is likely to come up for hearing on January 11.

Sources said state government officials were facing a difficult task of meeting the EC deadline. Lucknow District Magistrate Anil Kumar Sagar said he received EC's written directives on Sunday evening.

"There are about 300 big statues of elephants and 10 statues of CM Mayawati (each 15-ft high) in the 10 memorial parks in Lucknow alone. So, the amount of effort that will go into the exercise can be easily gauged," said an official.

Many officers concerned remained huddled in meetings. There was also confusion over the implementing agency. The officials were unclear about who would bear the cost of the exercise.

As statues have to remain under cover for two months or more, the options of covering them with plastic sheets or cloth were also discussed.

The ruling BSP has termed the order as "one-sided and against natural justice."

Former CEC T S Krishnamurthy said the EC decision "may look strange and some people may even call it idiotic, but unfortunately this is a consequence of distorted democracy that we have." He said in 2004 Lok Sabha polls, hoardings of the Prime Minister were ordered to be removed from National Highways to provide a level-playing field.

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