The smart inaugural campaign of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio with a photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown the way to draw mileage out of popular leaders holding constitutional positions — in a perfectly legal way.
The ad, however, also saw Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal lashing out at Modi.
Kejriwal tweeted, “Modiji, you carry on with modelling for Reliance. The labourers of India will unite to teach you a lesson in 2019.”
Kejriwal also posted the advertisement’s photo and added: “PM of India openly endorses Reliance product”.
मोदी जी। आप रिलायंस के ऐड में मॉडलिंग करते रहना। देश की सारी लेबर मिलके आपको 2019 में सबक़ सिखाएगी— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) September 2, 2016
Former Lok Sabha secretary general and law secretary to the government of India, TK Vishwanathan, told Hindustan Times that there is nothing wrong legally in dedicating any service or product to the Prime Minister or any constitutional functionary.
“If any corporate house or a private citizen want to use the PM’s picture to dedicate a service or a product, at least legally, the industry has not committed any wrong,” he added.
I'm curious to know what the resident dolt has to say from a marketing person's point of view about Modi in Reliance #Jio ad.— SamSays (@samjawed65) September 2, 2016
Well, you do know that "I'm Jio'd" is an anagram of Modi-ji. pic.twitter.com/jKfcLbLpob— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) September 2, 2016
Modi is a perfect brand ambassador for Jio because their customer care reps will also answer all your questions with cold, harsh stares.— Overrated Outcast (@over_rated) September 2, 2016
The advertisement, following the launch of Reliance Jio that offered free voice calls and data services at very low tariffs, came at a time when the NDA government is facing the opposition’s charge of being pro-corporate.
The print advertisement also mentioned, “Jio is dedicated to realizing our Prime Minister’s Digital India vision for 1.2 billion Indians.”
Sources in the government said that prior permission is “generally sought” before using the photo of the Prime Minister. But they could not confirm if, in this case, permission was sought.
The Congress, which is critical about the “pro-corporate” reforms of the Modi regime and dubbed his government the “suit-boot ki sarkar”, initially did not take particular exception to the advertisement. However, party spokesperson Ajay Maken later said if the required permission was not sought for using the Prime Minister’s image, “it is a serious issue and appropriate action should be taken”.
Most other political parties remained silent. The CPI(M) ignored the ad and focused on enforcing a workers’ strike.
Social media though was on fire.
Public rights lawyer Nishant Gambhir says he filed a Right to Information query asking the Prime Minister’s Office to reveal if Reliance Jio sought permission to use Modi’s photo, and to share the permission letter. He also sought to know about the existing guidelines for using such photos and whether the PM has now become the brand ambassador of Reliance.
Disclaimer: I’m not accusing the PM or Reliance Jio of anything. I’m curious about the ethics & protocol involved in using photo of the PM.— Nishant Gambhir (@madnish30) September 2, 2016
Last year, when Bandhan Bank was inaugurated to provide loans to small-scale business, a photo of President Pranab Mukherjee was used.