Not just outdoor campaigning, candidates and political parties in Mumbai will also have to explain their expenditure on social media promotion this Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections.
The Mumbai police have handpicked a core group from among their social media cell (SMC) to keep an eye on promotional posts on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media sites and report the matter to the state election commission (SEC).
According to the EC’s model code of conduct, a candidate can spend a maximum of Rs5 lakh on publicity.
Deven Bharati, joint commissioner of police, law and order, told HT they are acting on the state election commission’s instructions. “We are just executing the directive,” he said.
About the material that will come under scrutiny, Bharati said, “It includes everything, from [promotional] videos, photographs and audio clips to templates.”
He said the police plan to collect samples of advertisements put up on social media and send them to the SEC, which will, in turn, assess the expenditure. “Our job is to give inputs to the SEC about the happenings on the social media,” he said.
Taking a cue from the successful use of social media by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the last parliamentary and state elections, almost all parties are expected to look at multiplying their reach to smartphone user voters through trendy videos and social media posts.
Some political parties have already set up their election war rooms, where teams comprising copy writers, visualisers, creative heads and marketing firms have been hired at competitive costs to bolster canvassing on the social media
Political parties have also drawn up lists of film stars and popular icons to be used in publicity videos, sources in the industry claimed.
Bharati said another aim of social media surveillance is to keep a tab on offensive and objectionable posts against candidates and political parties in the run-up to the elections. “The samples of such material, too, would be sent to the SEC,” he said.