EC cracks whip on Rajasthan Congress for newspaper ads that ‘look like news items’

The Election Commission said the Congress party’s misleading ads violated the Model Code of Conduct.

WrittenBy:NL Team
A picture of Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

Days ahead of polling in Rajasthan, the Election Commission of India has asked the state’s Congress unit to furnish an explanation about its advertisements in mainstream newspapers that “looked like news items”. 

The poll body sent two show-cause notices to Rajasthan Congress on Wednesday, stating that the “misleading” ads, aimed at confusing voters, violated the Representation of People Act and the Model Code of Conduct.    

As reported by The Indian Express, the ECI’s notices came on the heels of the BJP’s complaints against the advertisements issued by the Congress in news dailies. 

The complaint mentioned an advertisement published in Dainik Bhaskar’s November 20 edition. The ad placed below the masthead or ‘sky bus’ said in Hindi: ‘Rajasthan mein Congress ki lehar (Congress wave in Rajasthan)’. 

The BJP alleged that the ad appeared like a story or opinion “published by the newspaper agency after a survey”, The Hindu reported. In its complaint, it also mentioned the Congress party’s ads in Rajasthan Patrika, The Indian Express and social media platform X, which reportedly asked the voters to call a particular number to register for the Congress’s “guarantees”.

The ECI notice said the ads appeared to “have been designed to look like a news item with a view to disorient the electors”. “It is not only misleading but also seems aimed at causing a confusion in the minds of voters regarding the outcome of the election thereby attempting to disturb the level playing field.”

The poll body also pointed out that the Congress itself had flagged a similar advertisement in March 2021 which could be confused for a news headline.

The ECI notice said: “In the present series of political advertisements in Rajasthan by the INC [Indian National Congress], it is noticeable that the design and content of the impugned advertisements are missing the Election Symbol which was clearly prominent in the previous incident referred above.” 

The poll body has asked Rajasthan Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra to respond to the notices by 3 pm on Thursday.

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