The CPI(M) on Tuesday claimed that the BJP has failed to include in its expenditure report filed before the Election Commission the expenses incurred by it for running a campaign through NaMo TV during the Lok Sabha elections and asked the poll body what action it has taken against the ruling party for the “electoral offense”.
Flagging the issue in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the NaMo TV channel was launched during the elections in contravention of the existing law and then “disappeared mysteriously” after the polls.
In April 2019, he said, “The spokesperson of the ECI had acknowledged that the channel run by DTH platforms was paid for by the BJP. However, now it has been revealed that the BJP in its returns to the ECI on its expenditure account has not shown this. This is an outright electoral offense. The immediate question that arises, has the ECI initiated any penal action against the BJP on this account? If not, why not?”
Yechury wrote that the “absence of absolute unambiguous firm action seriously questions the ECI’s responsibility for ensuring a level playing field, not to speak of weeding out electoral malpractices with a heavy hand”.
With the Bihar Assembly elections around the corner, Yechury reiterated his party’s opposition to a digital-only campaign, pointing to the BJP’s “massive resources” as compared to other parties.
“On the eve of the 2019 general election, the then BJP President, Amit Shah had publicly stated that the Party, with its network of 32 lakh WhatsApp groups, can make any message, true or false, viral within hours… And now on the eve of the Bihar elections, the Party has kicked off a virtual election campaign by putting up 72,000 LED TV monitors for Shah’s speech.
“After holding 60 virtual rallies, the BJP has claimed that its election campaign efforts would involve 9,500 IT Cell heads who will coordinate 72,000 WhatsApp groups, one for each polling booth, of which 50,000 have been formed in the last two months. The amount of expenditure that would be involved to put together such manpower for a technology driven system is simply mind boggling,” Yechury wrote.
“Even with figures for corporate contribution available in the public domain before the anonymous funding through electoral bonds came into vogue, it was clear that the gap between BJP and all other parties added together in securing corporate poll funding has widened manifold. Obviously, with the anonymous corporate funds without any upper ceiling, will certainly be the death knell for electoral democracy,” he added.