Mumbai, July 24 : Terming it as a blow to democracy, the Maharashtra Congress on Friday demanded a thorough probe into allegations that the State Election Commission (SEC) had hired a Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) party activist’s social media company to manage the Chief Electoral Officer’s Facebook page during the October 2019 Assembly election.
“This is shocking and a blow to democracy. The company which was hired by the SEC CEO belongs to a BJYM activist who is the national convener of the IT Cell of the Bharatiya Janata Party. It was expected that the SEC should work as an impartial body, but this revelation has hit the very foundation of our democracy,” said senior Congress leader and ex-chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Elaborating, he said that the SEC CEO had launched his online page called Chief Electoral Officer Maharashtra to create awareness regarding the elections, and many advertisements were given pertaining to the state assembly elections then.
“While creating the page, the user had provided an address, – 202 Pressman House, Vile Parle, Mumbai and many things came to light when it was probed,” said Chavan.
The then BJP-led Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ government had outsourced the state’s advertising work to a private company called Signpost India, to which the aforementioned address belonged, and the same address was also used by a digital media agency called Social Central.
“That company is under the name of one Devang Dave, the national coordinator of IT and Social Media cell of the BJYM. His website has a list of customers, and has created pages like The Fearless Indian, ‘Support Narendra Modi’, etc,” said Chavan.
State Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said that in July 2016, Devang Dave was also appointed as the Maharashtra BJP Social Media Cell chief by then state party chief Raosaheb Danve-Patil.
The two leaders said that these social media pages run the BJP propaganda and hate messages against people who do not agree with their ideology.
Besides, Chavan said it has come to light that the agency has also done the work of other government departments.
“As per Article 324 of the Constitution, the Election Commission of India has the power to direct, schedule and control elections. It is the duty of the ECI to ensure that elections are conducted in a free and fair manner, but the above incident indicates that the Maharashtra SEC failed in its duty,” said Chavan.
He demanded that the Chief Election Commissioner of India should immediately conduct a thorough and impartial inquiry into the incident.