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Chavan seeks ECI probe into BJP link to online ads put out during polls

Prithviraj Chavan

Prithviraj Chavan   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

Former chief minister of Maharashtra and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan on Friday alleged that an advertising and social media company owned by a BJP office-bearer was hired by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Maharashtra to issue election-related online ads during the 2019 State Assembly polls.

Mr. Chavan demanded a probe by the Election Commission of India (ECI) into the matter. Mr. Chavan said he had written a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner seeking an inquiry into the alleged episode, which took place when the BJP was in power in Maharashtra.

‘Need thorough inquiry’

“The sanctity of the election process has to be maintained. We request you to conduct a thorough inquiry into the whole episode because the very integrity of free and fair conduct of the election process appears to be undermined,” said Mr. Chavan in the letter.

He said the CEO, Maharashtra, ran an advertisement campaign related to election on Facebook. The advertisements issued under the campaign had the private address of the advertiser and not that of the CEO, Maharashtra, he said.

On a complaint raised by social activist Saket Gokhale, the ECI has already sought a factual report from the CEO, Maharashtra.

‘Appointed by BJP govt.’

“On inquiry, it was discovered that this address belonged to an advertising agency Signpost India. The company is a social media and outdoor agency and was appointed by the erstwhile BJP government for government publicity. On further enquiries it was found that the same address was also used by a digital agency called Social Central. All these agencies belong to and work for the BJP in Maharashtra,” Mr. Chavan said, adding that the agency Social Central was owned by Devang Dave, an office-bearer of the BJP. “He is the national convener of the IT and social media cell of the BJP Yuva Morcha,” the Congress leader said.

‘Propaganda pages’

There was evidence to establish that the CEO, Maharashtra’s social media campaign was being run by a BJP-sponsored company owned by Mr. Dave, he said. Mr. Dave also operated social media pages like ‘The Fearless Indian’ and ‘I support Narendra Modi’ which were propaganda pages, Mr. Chavan claimed.

Mr. Chavan said the website claimed that Mr. Dave was a member of the “IT board” of the Maharashtra government. “I have been the chief minister and am not aware of such a post in the government,” he said.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 7:59:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/chavan-seeks-eci-probe-into-bjp-link-to-online-ads-put-out-during-polls/article32186538.ece

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