The Election Commission of India on Thursday wrote to Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan clarifying that the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) did not choose the agency allegedly linked to BJP for providing requisite voter's awareness campaign.
Moreover, instant engagement of the agency by the office of CEO was solely for the purpose of voter's awareness campaign, ECI added.
Chavan in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner demanded thorough inquiry on the matter related to the hiring of Signpost an advertising and social media company by Maharashtra CEO Baldev Singh to issue the election-related online advertisements on 2019 Maharashtra state assembly election. He alleged that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office-bearer owns this company.
ECI immediately sought a factual report from CEO Maharashtra.
To which ECI replied stating, "I am directed to refer your letter dated July 24, 2020, and to inform you that a detailed factual reply in the matter was sought from Chief Electoral Officer(CEO), Maharashtra, which has now been received in the Commission, which inter-alia states."
"Director-General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) is a State Government Body in Maharashtra and as per General Administration Department, Government Resolution No.: IPR-2017/C.R.153/desk-34, dated July 21, 2017, all agencies for all types of advertisements are to be shortlisted/selected and engaged for government departments by them," ECI added.
The Office of CEO had also requested DGIPR to engage a suitable agency for SVEEP campaign for social media, before Lok Sabha Elections, during Lok Sabha Election and Assembly Elections. After this, steps taken by DGIPR were as follows--Regarding selection of the agency: DGIPR invited an online e-tender for social media activities for voter's awareness campaign in the month of June 2018. An agency bearing the name of Signpost was selected and awarded work in June 2018 until Lok Sabha elections 2019, ECI stated.
"Further, the CEO office requested DGIPR in June 2019 for voter awareness campaign purposes for Vidhan Sabha elections. DGIPR received online responses from empanelled agencies for Vidhan Sabha election 2019 and agencies were asked to give a creative presentation on their plan of action on the specified scope of work stipulated in the tender document," said ECI.
The agency Signpost was selected on the basis of its financial offer, quality of their presentation and past performance, for Vidhan Sabha elections, 2019.
After the expiry of the duration of two years of empanelled agencies with the State Government, the State Government has issued the new list of empanelled agencies on 16' March 2020 which includes Signpost, ECI stated.