Four days before the desert state goes to polls, some major dailies published front-page advertisements stating, “Rajasthan mein Congress ki lehar” (There’s a Congress wave in Rajasthan). Interestingly, the ads did not carry the Congress electoral symbol, which may give the initial impression that it is the editorial viewpoint of these newspapers. The BJP has also raised the fact that the font size of “impact feature”, suggesting they were advertisements, was deliberately kept small.
“That the aforementioned quote advertisement is an obfuscation and blatant violation of poll guidelines in which Congress party is trying to pass off an advertisement as an opinion of such respective newspapers to create a wrong and misinformative impact in the minds of the voters during the election,” alleged the BJP complaint, which went on to state that it is a “mystery” how the state-level Media Certification & Monitoring Committee (MCMC) had not flagged it so far.
Claiming that the “language, design, layout and positioning” give an impression that it is an opinion poll of the news publications concerned, the BJP has demanded “stringent action” against the Congress for allegedly violating section 171G of the IPC and the Model Code of Conduct that is in place in Rajasthan. The BJP has also demanded “action” against the dailies that published those ”misleading and mischievous” advertisements while asking the Congress to issue and the newspapers to publish an apology over this.
‘Corrupt and immoral’ missed calls
In another complaint against another advertisement of the Congress in Rajasthan, the BJP asked the Election Commission to direct the registration of an FIR. Calling it “surrogate bribery”, the BJP highlighted the Congress’s campaign where a call to a registered number would “guarantee advance booking”.
“A registered number (8587070707) was generated for the caller, creating an impression that only the caller would benefit by voting for a particular candidate or party, specifically the Congress party,” said the BJP in its complaint to the CEC.
Taking another dig at the state-level Media Certification & Monitoring Committee (MCMC) as in its earlier complaint, the BJP wrote, “This misleading advertisement approved by the MCMC-state level certification committee, projects the total number of missed calls as potential registered beneficiaries, presented as an opinion poll during the Model Code of Conduct.” The party further claims that it is “not government issued number” which raises a bigger question about the legitimacy of capturing data for government welfare schemes.
The BJP also stressed that the phone number is highlighted “to propagate the support for the Congress party” by chief minister Ashok Gehlot, on his account on social media site X. The BJP said it was self-explanatory that the missed calls are on the political party numbers but the total number of missed calls is projected in the form of “would-be registered beneficiaries”.
The BJP compared a registration number being assigned after giving a missed call to this number with the distribution of coupons to voters. Reminding the poll body of what constitutes “corrupt practices” according to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the BJP claimed the Congress not only violated it but also sections of the IPC and Model Code of Conduct.
While the BJP has outrightly demanded the registration of an FIR at the order of the commission (as law and order during elections come under the EC), it has also asked the poll body to “stop” Ashok Gehlot and his party from disseminating such advertisements in the future. Calling it “surrogate bribery”, it asked the commission to “reprimand the Congress” as well.
On Tuesday, a four-member delegation comprising Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Om Pathak, and Amit Malviya went to the Election Commission to raise their objections, just four days before Rajasthan goes to polls.