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Election officials did not pick firm with BJP links, EC tells Prithviraj Chavan

The Election Commission of India in New Delhi. File

The Election Commission of India in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Election Commission said on Thursday that the office of the Maharashtra Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) did not choose the social media company allegedly linked to the BJP, for carrying out awareness campaigns.

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

It was responding to former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s demand for an investigation into the hiring of Signpost. Mr. Chavan, a Congress MLA, had asked the EC on July 24 to probe the “selection” of the company by the Maharashtra CEO ahead of the State Assembly elections last year. Mr. Chavan had alleged that Signpost is owned by a member of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha.

In response, the EC said the company was empanelled by the Director General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) of Maharashtra in June 2018 till the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 following a tendering process. The CEO requested the DGIPR for a voter awareness campaign in June 2019, for which the DGIPR received online responses from empanelled agencies, it said.

“The agency Signpost was selected on the basis of its financial offer, quality of their presentation and past performance, for Vidhan Sabha elections, 2019,” the EC wrote.

After the two-year period ended, the State government, now ruled by the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition as opposed to the BJP in 2018, issued a new list of empanelled agencies on March 16, 2020, including Signpost. The EC said all the relevant rules for selecting the agency had been followed.

It added that the question of an independent check on the agency, which is a registered company that claims to have over 500 employees, did not arise as there were no specific complaints about its work during the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections or even after that.

“The Office of CEO didn’t choose the agency. It requisitioned the services through DGIPR in accordance with set norms and procedures laid down, in this regard, in the State. In any case, unless a specific complaint is received in the Commission, no cognisance can be taken,” it said.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2020 7:20:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/election-officials-did-not-pick-firm-with-bjp-links-ec-tells-chavan/article32233895.ece

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