The election commission (EC) has served notices to 16 candidates contesting assembly elections from three constituencies -- Noida, Dadri and Jewar -- in Gautam Budh Nagar for online political campaigns without permission.
The Gautam Budh Nagar administration district magistrate, who is also the district election officer, has directed these 16 candidates to file replies against notices in the next two days.
Dealing with political campaigns on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and messaging app WhatsApp is a huge task for the election commission. The EC has a 15 to 20-member cyber experts’ team monitoring online campaigns of each candidate.
The UP assembly polls in the three constituencies are slated to take place on February 11 and results will be declared on March 11.
These 16 candidates include those fielded by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) - Congress alliance. They have been accused of political promotions on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp without permission from the EC.
“If they fail to submit satisfactory replies, we will take strong legal action as per law. A team of 15 to 20 cyber experts were at the job to identify candidates involved in online promotions without permission,” NP Singh, district magistrate cum district election officer, said.
As per law, each candidate or his supporter mandatorily requires to obtain pre-certification of an account from media certification and monitoring committee (MCMC) if he/she wants to send bulk promotional messages on any social networking site. The cyber team is also monitoring whether any candidate or his supporter is seeking votes in the name of cast or religion online.
“We will lodge an FIR against a candidate or his supporter if there is a violation of the Supreme Court order that prohibits a candidate from seeking votes in the name of caste or religion. We will lodge the FIR under sections of the IPC or the People’s Representation Act if there is a violation online or otherwise,” Singh said.
In the Noida assembly seat, BSP candidate Ravi Kant Mishra, BJP candidate Pankaj Singh, SP candidate Sunil Chaudhary, Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate Brajesh, independent candidate Vikas Gupta and Jawed Khan of Sarv Sambhav Party have been issued notices.
In the Dadri segment, BSP’s Satveer Gurjar, BJP’s Tejpal Nagar, Congress’s Samir Bhati, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Kumar, Rashtravadi Pratap Sena’s Ramesh Singh Rawal and Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD) Ravinder Bhati have been issued notices.
In Jewar, BSP’s Vedram Bhati, BJP’s Dhirendra Singh, SP’s Narendra Nagar and RLD’s Kamal Sharma received notices for violation.
All political parties are doing an aggressive online campaigning and the EC will add the spending on online promotions in each candidate’s expenditure.
However, all parties said they are not violating any law in online promotions.
“We have obtained permission for online promotions. But, if our supporters are involved in promotions on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, how can we be held responsible? We will reply to the notice,” Harsh Chaturvedi, head of BJP’s IT cell in western UP, said.
“We are following all procedures for online promotions. We will face the notice and send a reply,” Sunil Chaudhary, SP candidate, said.
“We have not violated any procedure in online promotions. We are yet to receive the notice. Once we get it, we will file a reply,” Lal Singh, president of BSP in Gautam Budh Nagar district, said.