ECI Seeks Maha CEO’s Response Over Hiring BJP IT Cell Member

RTI Activist Gokhale demands answers from the ECI over the hiring of an agency owned by BJP IT Cell Member.

Updated24 Jul 2020, 10:22 AM IST
2 min read

The Election Commission of India has sought a report from the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Maharashtra on the allegations levelled by RTI activist Saket Gokhale on Twitter.

On 23 July, Gokhale tweeted and accused the Maharashtra Election Commission of tasking an agency owned by a member of the BJP IT cell for its social media in the run-up to the 2019 State Assembly Elections.

Gokhale's tweets sent netizens into a frenzy and prompted a response by the Spokesperson of the Election Commission of India, Shephali Sharan, stating that the Commission has sought a "detailed factual report" from Maharashtra's CEO over the allegations.

The Allegations

Gokhale had demanded answers from the ECI in his tweets while questioning the "independence and neutrality" of the institution.

In a detailed twitter thread, Gokhale alleges that the social media advertisements were commissioned to an agency owned by Devang Dave, who works in BJP’s IT cell and is also the founder of websites and pages like “The Fearless Indian” and “I Support Narendra Modi”.

He was led to Dave through the address shared on the old Maharashtra CEO's social media advertisements, "202 Pressman House, Vile Parle, Mumbai." He claims that this is the address of 'Signpost India,' a government-run agency.

The Quint reached out to Dave for his role in these claims, who denied the allegations.

"The charge is completely baseless and is meant to tarnish my reputation because I come from a lower middle class background," said Dave. "Yes, there is no politics in my family, although our legal team will soon come up with answers on these allegations," he added.

No Illegality, Says Dave

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

Signpost India is empanelled with the Governement of Maharashtra on several government platforms. It is alleged that Dave’s company got the benefit of being empanelled due to his close proximity to the BJP.

The website of Signpost India says that the company has been active in the field of outdoor advertising since the year 2013 and also does online advertising. In 2019, the company was the national partner for the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana campaign.

It was also empanelled as expert advertising agency for all oil companies of the Government of India, IOCL, BPCL and HPCL. However, there's no mention of its work for the ECI in Maharashtra assembly elections in 2019.

A Maharashtra Election Commission official said that the work is assigned as per the rules and through a tender. The Commission in this case will submit its official report to the ECI.

The whole debate has also received political response. Sachin Sawant, the spokesperson of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, has tweeted and demanded an inquiry into the matter.

A clarification from CEO Maharashtra and further response from Dave's legal team is awaited.

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Published: 24 Jul 2020, 10:21 AM IST
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