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