Surrogate ads: Congress gets EC clean chit, BJP a reminder

Surrogate ads

THE Election Commission (EC) has given a clean chit to the Congress in the complaints regarding surrogate advertisements "below the belt" poll ads, which appeared in some vernacular dailies two days before Himachal went to polls on November 5.

The development comes after state Congress president Virbhadra Singh sent a eight-page reply to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Narinder Chauhan, completely disassociating the party from such ads and stating the ads neither used the name of any individual or requests for seeking votes. "Therefore, no meaning or conclusion can be drawn from the ads with regard to the Congress. The identity of the publisher, some distinct social bodies, cannot be misjudged or misconstrued to the Congress in any manner," Virbhadra said in his reply.

The BJP, also accused of having got surrogate ads printed against the Congress, however, failed to reply to the EC's showcause notice. While it was sent a reminder, four newspaper groups that published such ads, are now under EC scanner.

Two sets of surrogate ads had appeared in Hindi newspaper two days before the elections one slamming Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his son, MP Anurag Thakur, and another with caricatures of Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh. None of the ads were purportedly issued by political parties and were reportedly published by some

organisations.

In a suo moto action on November 9, the CEO had issued showcause notices to the Congress, BJP and four newspapers asking for replies. "After carefully going through the reply sent by the Congress president, I have ordered the case to be dropped. But BJP has been sent a fresh reminder, apart from reminders sent to the newspaper groups. If there is no response I will refer the case to the EC for advise and follow-up action," Chauhan said.

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