Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
For the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, did the Election Commission engage a social media management company that fraudulently listed BJP Ministers, and even the Prime Minister’s Office, as its clients?
On 1st August 2020, the website of this company TSD Corporation had exhibited pictures of BJP ministers and leaders, clearly calling them clients. Even former President Pranab Mukherjee and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi were listed as their clients.
There was another page on their website that described "Working closely with the PMO", as their USP or unique selling point.
Did TSD Corporation Misuse Influential Names?
On 6th August, The Quint published an article ‘2019 Elections: How BJP Leaders & EC Shared Social Media Managers’. Right after that these pages described above, vanished from the website of TSD Corporation!
Instead, altered pages appeared in which – firstly, “Working Closely with the PMO” had been changed to “Worked Closely with MyGov”.
BJP Ministers - Switched From 'Clients' To 'Guests At Events'
Secondly, the heading - ‘Clients - Government’ had been removed from the page which had photographs of BJP Union Ministers. It has been replaced with a line saying - “We have executed Digital events with various govt. departments which featured the following honourable dignitaries as chief guest/spokesperson for the event”.
So, the assertion that these Ministers were their clients, has quietly been removed from their website.
TSD Corporation has also removed the photograph of a Union Minister who sent us a notice after the story was published.
In other words, TSD Corporation was misusing the name of the PMO and of several senior BJP Ministers and leaders, projecting them as their clients, perhaps, to get prestigious and lucrative assignments, including the 2019 assignment with the Election Commission.
EC Silent On TSD Corporation's Allegedly Fraudulent Activity
Before publishing our article on 6th August - we had asked TSD Corporation these questions:
Q1. Your website says, "Working closely with PMO". Are you still working with PMO and with other BJP leaders as your clients, as mentioned on your website?
Q2. Have you worked with any other political party apart from BJP?
Q3. Did you inform the Election Commission that you work closely with BJP politicians?
But we received no reply.
We had also written to the Election Commission, waited for a whole week, but had got no reply.
After the article was published, we got a response from the EC. We also received a notice from an Hon’ble Union Minister's office stating that the Minister was never a client of TSD Corporation -
“…our client (the Union Minister) has never engaged the services of TSD Corp in any manner whatsoever, much less for managing a social media account…”
This notice came as a surprise to us. We did not expect a company engaged by the Election Commission to be involved in potentially fraudulent activity. We removed the story from our website and started gathering fresh information.
Meanwhile EC had finally replied to our question -
Had TSD Corporation told EC that top politicians from a particular national party were their clients?
“Reputed agencies have several verticals and a diverse list of clients who could range from Government Ministries/Departments, PSUs.. even political entities. There are in-built procedures for blacklisting, if any agency is found to be subserving the interest of a political entity while working for ECI”
The EC's reply also said -
“…if anybody working in or for the Government would be partisan in favour of the ruling party, there would not have been different political parties winning elections to the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.”
Click here to read EC’s full reply.
We had also asked the EC what due diligence exercise was done before engaging TSD Corporation for the sensitive role of managing the EC’s social media for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections?
Has the EC registered a criminal case of fraud against TSD Corporation for misusing names of senior BJP politicians?
In reply, the Election Commission passed the buck to the National Film Development Corporation or NFDC, saying it was NFDC that had provided “professionally experienced executives from TSD Corporation”.
But if the Election Commission is accountable for free and fair elections, then surely the EC has to directly ensure that any company or individual involved in the election process, does their job fairly, with no conflict of interest. Surely the buck stops with the EC and no one else.
Can the EC maintain such a nonchalant attitude towards its constitutional mandate to conduct a free and fair election by delegating sensitive tasks to other government departments without proper guidelines and filters?
In fact, we now have more questions –
- Doesn’t the EC have enough information that TSD Corporation shared fraudulent information about their activities?
- If yes, then WHY is the EC not taking legal action against TSD Corporation?
- EC claims to have “inbuilt procedures for blacklisting” companies – then why haven’t these procedures kicked in?
We have also written to the PMO and to other BJP Ministers, asking if they were aware that TSD Corporation had named them as clients on their website? We have also asked if they have engaged or worked closely with TSD Corporation in the past? So far, we have got no replies. But shouldn’t the PMO and the BJP Ministers mentioned, take legal action against TSD Corporation for misusing their names?
We have also written to TSD Corporation again, asking them about the sudden changes to their website. Why did they drop the reference to BJP Ministers and leaders as clients? And why drop the mention of working closely with the PMO? We have got no reply yet, but we will keep tracking this crucial story and update you when we have more information.