Did ECI Maharashtra CEO Hire BJP IT Cell Convenor’s Firm During 2019 Assembly Elections?

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sought a report from the Maharashtra Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) regarding allegations that the body appointed an agency linked to a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office-bearer to deal with its social media accounts before the 2019 Assembly elections.

In his tweets, Saket Gokhale, a social activist from Maharashtra, alleged that the firm which the Election Commission hired to handle its social media accounts was also the same firm that BJP hired. As a matter of fact, Devang Dave, a BJP leader, owns the firm.

Gokhale asserted that the Maharashtra Chief Election Officer posted the social media advertisements from ‘202 Pressman House, Vile Parle, Mumbai’. He claims this was the address of Signpost India, a government agency. The same firm also has close ties to former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis.

One Address, Two Companies

“Browsing through the old social media adverts of the Chief Electoral Officer, Maharashtra, something very strange stood out. The Chief Electoral Officer reports to the ECI. In each of the ads, the address seemed to be the same: “202 Pressman House, Vile Parle, Mumbai.”

Gokhale’s first tweet

In his thread, Gokhale claims that the address belonged to an advertising company called Signpost India. i.e. a govt-empaneled agency under Fadnavis BJP government. Gokhale added that the address 202 Pressman House was also used by a digital agency called “Social Central”.

“This agency is owned by Devang Dave; who is the national convener of IT & social media for BJP’s Youth Wing @BJYM. Guess who shows up on his client list on his website?”

he continued.

Allegedly, Devang Dave is also the founder of websites and pages like “The Fearless Indian”, “I Support Narendra Modi” etc. In fact, Gokhale stated that Dave’s agency lists the BJP as a client along with other govt. entities. Additionally, he said that the aforesaid pages are full of hateful political content of BJP IT Cell.

Thus, Gokhale questioned why a member of the BJP IT Cell handled the social media of the Chief Electoral Officer, Maharashtra.

Is this conduct of @ECISVEEP in line with “independence” and “neutrality”? Is the BJP’s takeover of establishments is so open now? ECI MUST ANSWER!”

The last tweet by Gokhale

Demand for Investigation

People are demanding the Election Commission of India to explain as to how can the constitutional body be usurped by the ruling party in Centre. This is a case of regulatory capturing.

Moreover, State Congress common secretary Sachin Sawant also demanded investigation in this matter. He tweeted: “We demand inquiry into this serious issue by independent panel. ECI is supposed to work independently. Here a company of national office bearer of BJP youth wing was instrumental in handling social media of CEO Maharashtra. What about EC data? Why background was not checked?”

“Regarding tweet of Mr Gokhale @SaketGokhale; Commission has sought detailed factual report in this matter from CEO Maharashtra; with respect to alleged locale of the incidence immediately.”

Sheyphali Sharan, official spokesperson of the ECI

Dave’s Response

Dave also tweeted his response, stating that “there was no illegality” in the work assigned to his company Signpost.

“We do not earn our bread and butter by doing any kind of “Dalali” but by Hardwork; The work assigned by Election Commission to Signpost was after following due process. There is no illegality whatsoever. Is it also forbidden for political activists to make an honest living?”

-Devang Dave replied

About The Signpost

According to Signpost’s website the company is doing outdoor advertising since 2013. Also, in 2019, the company was the national partner for the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana campaign. Further, it performs expert advertising functions for all oil companies of the Government of India, IOCL, BPCL and HPCL. However, one cannot find any reference of the work done for the Election Commission in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly Polls.

According to Maharashtra Election Commission such work is assigned as per the rules. Also adding, that the work is assigned through a tender. Further, the Commission is going to send its official report to the ECI.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India awaits a clarification from CEO Maharashtra. Dave’s legal team will offer a detailed response after they have figured out the issue.

Ishan Harlalka
Ishan Harlalkahttp://lexinsider.com
I am a 3rd year law aspirant pursuing BA LLB. I am deeply interested in learning and am always looking forward to gain knowledge about new subjects. In my leisure time, I try to read books of various genres and by different authors. As people from non-law background may find it difficult to understand legal provisions and jargons, I try to write in a way that my articles are easy to comprehend and after reading them, one can discuss them with others.

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