The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sought a “detailed factual report” from the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Maharashtra, after RTI activist Saket Gokhale revealed that the poll body had hired a social media agency with ties to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the assembly elections in 2019.
Responding to a tweet, ECI spokesperson Sheyphali Sharan said: “Commission has sought detailed factual report in this matter from CEO Maharashtra with respect to alleged locale of the incidence immediately.”
In a series of tweets on Thursday evening, Gokhale had established how the ECI hired a social media agency which was run by Devang Dave, whose Twitter profile mentions that he is the National Convener IT and Social Media for the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP.
Gokhale zeroed-in on social media posts of the CEO Maharashtra from the run-up to the state elections last year and found that the address mentioned on all its social media accounts on different platforms was the same: 202 Pressman House, Vile Parle, Mumbai.
When the activist checked who the address belonged to, he found that it belonged to “Signpost India”, an advertising agency empaneled by the state government under former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. He found that the same address was also used by Dave to run an agency called “Social Central”.
Gokhale revealed that Dave ran pages like “The Fearless Indian” and “I Support Narendra Modi”, pages which had content from the BJP’s IT cell and listed the party as a client.
A look at Dave’s personal website also shows that he claims to have been associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2008, and says he has worked for the BJP in Maharashtra in 2016. A DNA article also mentions that the formally started associating himself with the BJP in 2011.
“Why was the social media of the Chief Electoral Officer, Maharashtra, being handled by a member of the BJP IT Cell?” Gokhale asked in a tweet.
Dave told India Today that the allegations made were “completely baseless” and that they were an attempt to sully his reputation. “Our legal team is going through the details and will come up with an official reply with further action soon,” Dave told the news channel.