New Delhi: With the model code of conduct (MCC) in place for the Lok Sabha polls starting April 11, the Election Commission on Tuesday directed Facebook to take down two political posters with the picture of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shared by BJP leader and Delhi MLA Om Prakash Sharma.
The posters – also carrying photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and Sharma – were shared on Facebook on March 1, Indian Express reported.
The action is likely the first such instance of a social media platform being pulled up for an MCC violation and has come soon after political parties were advised against using images of defence personnel in their campaigns.
While the MCC provisions have been applicable to social media since 2013, the EC has till now been unable to act against violations due to the lack of a mechanism to reach out to social media sites.
According to the English daily, after receiving a complaint about the posters on its cVIGIL app, the electoral body flagged the issue to Shivnath Thukral, Facebook’s director of public policy for India and South Asia.
The app is meant to enable voters and citizens to flag “malpractices”. Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said cVIGIL allows citizens to post photos or video clips up to two minutes long. Once the submission is made, the user can track the complaint and follow it up. The identity of the complainant would be confidential.
While one poster shared by the BJP leader read, “Jhuk gaya hai Pakistan, laut aaya hai desh ka veer Jawan (Pakistan capitulates, the country’s brave heart is back), the other went on to laud the Indian prime minister for the pilot’s return. “Modi ji dwara itne kam samay main bahadur Abhinandan ko wapas lana Bharat ki bahut badi kootnitik vijay hai (Abhinandan’s return, through Modi ji, is a big diplomatic win for India).”
The Wire earlier reported that despite the EC asking parties to not use the armed forces for political advertisements or campaigns, most have been politicising the Indian Air Force’s strike in Balakot and Wing Commander Varthaman.
In most such instances, BJP has been the perpetual defaulter. However, even the Aam Aadmi Party has tried leveraging the Indian pilot’s release and return to the country.