EC hires BJP-linked social media firms
The Election Commission has waded into controversy after it was revealed that it has hired firms close to the BJP to handle its social media accounts.
A Right to Information application filed last year has resurfaced, raising some concerning questions about the Election Commission of India’s impartiality and the security of voter data. It turns out that the poll body has, on more than one occasion, hired firms closely linked to the BJP and the Modi government.
In a response dated June 21 last year, the commission has said that it has engaged the services of an agency names TSD Corporation Ltd to manage its Twitter and Instagram accounts during the Lok Sabha elections. It also used the services of ADG Online Solution Pvt Ltd to operate its Facebook account.
Both these companies are perceived to be close to the party, managing the online personas of several top leaders and also many government ministries. TSD Corp’s client list includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself; in fact, the company claims its specialises in working closely with the Prime Minister’s Office. Other BJP stalwarts on its list include Union Ministers Prakash Javadekar, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Dharmendra Pradhan, former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, among others. In 2019, it also handled Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath’s Deepotsav event.
It has also handled the social media handles of several government ministers including defence and e-governance. Four years ago, it was empanelled by the National Informatics Centre which handles all online services of the government ministries.
Activists have raised several concerns under the circumstances. They ask why the hiring of these agencies was not done independently but through government-owned bodies. How can they be sure that data is not being leaked, they ask. In one instance in Maharashtra, the state election commission hired a firm owned by the convener of IT and social media for the state BJP unit’s youth wing to handle voter awareness campaign ahead of assembly elections last year. If crucial voter data was being transferred from ECI to the BJP, it would amount to electoral fraud.