Surrogate, ‘below the belt’ ads in HP under EC scanner
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"Andher Nagri Chaupat Raja, Himachal kharidney koi bhi aaja", reads the advertisement issued in a vernacular daily by a little-known Himachal Bachao Morcha. The visual shows caricatures of Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his son and Lok Sabha MP Anurag Thakur stashing currency notes in a safe. The ad then goes on make sharp one-line comments about numerous alleged scams during Dhumal's term.
"Attaichi lana, kaam karana, par CD mat banana," a caricature of Himachal Congress chief Virbhadra Singh's wife Pratibha Singh is shown to be telling people queued up with suitcases — full of currency notes — in another ad in a vernacular daily. Pratibha, with several suitcases stashed in front of her, is shown sitting on a chair with Virbhadra Singh's caricature saying "Ab aaye toh aur loot machayenge" from behind. The ad goes on to say — "CD ne kholi "seva" ke naam par "meva" khaney waalon ki pol. Aaropon ke chaltey Virbhadra Singh ko mantripad se haath dhona pada."
This, and many similar "below the belt" surrogate advertisements are now under the scanner of the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Having already taken cognizance, the Himachal Pradesh election department is now in the process of referring these ads to the EC for necessary action.
"While all the ads for the electronic media, including radio jingles, were cleared by us, none of these ads issued by various groups that have appeared in local newspapers came to us for clearance before publication. I have now asked all the deputy commissioners in the state whether these ads were cleared by them at the local level," state Chief Electoral Officer Narinder Chauhan told The Indian Express. He added that "a look at these ads makes it very clear that these are surrogate ads", which are either not claimed by anybody or have been issued by little-known dummy groups.
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