BJP’s IT cell head Amit Malviya leveled charges against the Congress party for campaigning during polling in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) IT cell head Amit Malviya leveled charges against the Congress party for campaigning during polling in Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday. Malviya tweeted, alleging Congress of using social media for campaigning on the day of polling. He claimed this as “gross violation of Representation of People Act”. He urged Election commission to take note of the matter. Malviya attached screen shots of two different tweets posted from the party’s official twitter handle. Both the tweets have time stamp of November 28, 2018.
Some people replied back on Malviya’s tweet claiming, BJP also continued to campaign like Congress on the day of polling.
Is the political campaigning on social media, on the day of poll, a violation of “Representation of People Act”, as claimed by Malviya? Some people cast doubts, if Election commission take any cognisance of these matters? India Today Fact Check found that as per Election Commission, these posts are violation of The Representation of People Act.
Going by the official handles, we found that both, BJP and Congress tweeted political posts related to Madhya Pradesh campaign on the day of polling. Polling began in Madhya Pradesh on the same day, from 7 am and these tweets were posted in the morning.
Congress had posted two videos addressing farmers and women. The messages in the posts tried to lure voters with various schemes the party offers. In the tweet addressed to the farmers, sops including loan waivers, crop insurance and pension are offered.
In the second video, Congress promises loan waiver for self-help group of women and assures safety for women, in Madhya Pradesh. Congress appeals voters to cast vote for them in the videos and use #VoteCongress in the tweets.
In the same way BJP also appealed its voters to vote for the party. With a #FirBJPFirShivraj, the party posted tweets from official handle, asking voters to push the button for their party symbol-“lotus”. It also lists out various promises for the development of the state and its people.
India Today Fact Check found there is no direct mention of the word “social media” in The Representation of People Act, 1951.
On the other hand, the Election Commission of India, had issued instructions on the use of social media in election campaigning, in 2013. It clearly says the model code of conduct shall apply “on the internet, including social media websites, by candidates and political parties”.
But there is an ambiguity in the act since there is no clear guideline mentioned about the role of social media platforms like Facebook, twitter or WhatsApp in The Representation of People Act.
According to the Election Commission of India, it is investigating on the time and date of the tweets posted by the Congress. It can take suo moto action if it found that the party has violated the model code of conduct.
According to the commission, it can take action against such social media post under Section 126 of The Representation of People Act, 1951, which deals with the prohibition of public meeting on the polling day.
The model code of conduct, in its current form prohibits candidates or political parties from displaying public “any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus…” .
The social media posts of Congress and BJP have violated this section. According to the commission, social media falls in the category of “other similar apparatus” like television and cinematography.But as far as the content posted by persons other than candidates and political parties is concerned, the Commission is considering the matter in consultation with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology on practical ways to deal with the issue.
Recently, the commission has written letters to social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to find way out in getting more control over this kind of social media posts which violates Section 126 of The Representation of People Act.
The Election Commission is also working on process of implementing and amending the Act, as per the recommendations made by the 14 member committee, appointed in January 2018 on the misuse of social media platforms during elections.
India Today found though these political posts on the day of poll are violation of The Representation of People Act. But the EC is still working on the mechanisms to have a greater reign over the misuse of different social media platforms during elections.