After issuing showcause notices for alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) to two Hindi dailies for printing full page advertisements of the biopic ‘PM Narendra Modi’ without taking prior certification, the District Election Officer (DEO) East, K Mahesh, has now submitted a report to the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), stating that it is a “clear case of surrogate advertising”, it is learnt.
In his report, Mahesh said he found that the advertisements in both dailies and their e-paper versions printed on March 20 were booked by Manish Grover aka Acharya Manish, the producer of the biopic who had “strong political inclinations” toward the PM. Mahesh said this amounted to surrogate advertising.
Mahesh has asked that the report be referred to the Election Commission of India and “appropriate action may be taken against him (Grover)” and the two dailies — Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar. According to Mahesh, Grover not only violated the MCC, but also the EC order dated February 26, 2014, which states: “Regarding clarification of political advertisements on social media, it is clarified that the political ads issued in e-papers of any newspaper shall also require to be pre-certified by committee for certification”.
According to Mahesh, Grover also allegedly committed an offence under Section 171H of the IPC (illegal payments in connection with an election).
In his report, Mahesh said Dainik Jagran, in response to the showcause, responded that the “impugned advertisement in question was booked by Divya Kit Foundation, which is owned by Acharya Manish, the producer of the biopic in question, and the same was published on the release order issued by Monga Advertising Agency”.
Dainik Bhaskar said the advertisement was booked by M/s Jeena Seekho Lifecare Pvt Ltd. “From the website of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the directors of the said firm are Mr Manish Grover and Bhavan Grover. It was submitted that Mr Manish Grover is known as Acharya Manish, who is one of the three producers of the Biopic: PM Narendra Modi,” Mahesh has said in his report.
He said Grover’s role was probed as a result. “It was revealed through the Facebook page of Mr Acharya Manish and Divya Kit that Shri Acharya Manish has strong political inclinations and is an ardent supporter of candidate on whom the biopic PM Narendra Modi is based upon,” said Mahesh, adding that a showcause notice was issued to him on April 1, to which he has not yet responded.
“Shri Acharya Manish/Manish Grover is the person responsible to book the advertisements through Monga Advertising, through Divya Kit and Jeena Seekho Lifecare Pvt Ltd and the payments of the same have been made by Shri Acharya/Manish Grover, who is also one of the three producers of the biopic in question,” said Mahesh.
“It has further been revealed through the social media platforms of Acharya Manish/Manish Grover, that he is a person of strong political inclinations in favour of the candidate on who the biopic is based. In view of the same, the ad amounts to a clear case of surrogate advertising and is, therefore, a violation on multiple counts,” he added.
Asked by The Indian Express if the report had been referred to the ECI, Delhi CEO Ranbir Singh said he would check and get back, but did not respond to subsequent calls and messages. Grover could not be reached for a comment. Mahesh refused to comment on the matter.