The Election Commission (EC) has directed the ministry of information & broadcasting to look into the matter of surrogate advertisements and get back to it by Monday evening. The EC action is in response to the Congress complaint about a surrogate television commercial which obliquely raises the foreign origin issue.
This campaign was launched this week, allegedly by a BJP front organisation, in response to an advertisement which ridiculed the government. The advetisement was alleged to be the work of a Congress front organisation. They showed how the common man had been cheated, how unemployment was growing under a regime which was shamelessly tom-tomming its spurious achievements.
When Congress began its surrogate television commercials some time ago, the BJP did not scream or go to the EC. The BJP response, especially its raising of the foreign origin issue, infuriated the Congress, which lodged a complaint with the poll panel.
Speaking to FE, BJP sources said that the party would play by the rules of the game. If such advertisements are allowed, we would respond in kind. And ours would hurt the Congress, as evident from the outcry against the one we have already launched, he said.
If EC bans such ads, the party would abide by such a ruling, he said. In any case, we never started the game.
While the BJP leaders are unruffled, the problems of minister of information & broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad have just started. He cannot ignore the directives of the poll panel, nor can he afford to do anything that would annoy his party bosses that is, the BJP leaders.
The EC is of the view that the govt enjoys enough powers to regulate and prohibit offensive ads. Its worry is that dirtier surrogate commercials would further vitiate the political debate.
While recognising that the surrogate advertisement cannot be wished away, EC and I&B ministry officials are veering towards the view that restraint on such advertisements should be limited to personal attacks. The officials were also toying with the idea of setting up a body to monitor surrogate commercials.