The Election Commission on Tuesday directed Facebook to delete two posts shared by a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA with Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s image. The posts, which were election posters, were shared by Delhi MLA Om Prakash Sharma, The Indian Express reported.
The poll body flagged the content to Shivnath Thukral, Facebook’s director of public policy for India and South Asia, based on a complaint on its cVIGIL app. “We are committed to working with the Election Commission to prevent abuse on the platform,” Facebook told the daily in response to a query.
“Modi ji dwara itne kam samay main bahadur Abhinandan ko wapas lana Bharat ki bahut badi kootnitik vijay hai [Abhinandan’s return, through Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a big diplomatic win for India],” one of the posters reads. “Jhuk gaya hai Pakistan, laut aaya hai desh ka veer jawan [Pakistan has capitulated, the country’s brave soldier has returned],” said another.
Both posters, which were put up on social media on March 1, carry photographs of Varthaman, Modi, BJP National President Amit Shah and Om Prakash Sharma. Varthaman, whose MiG-21 jet was downed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on February 27 following a dogfight between Indian and Pakistani aircraft, was returned to India on March 1.
On March 9, the Election Commission instructed political parties to keep the country’s defence personnel out of election campaigning and not to use their photographs in advertisements. The order came following a Ministry of Defence complaint.
Sharma disagreed with the timing of the poll body’s decision. “The Election Commission sent me a notice last night,” he told ANI on Wednesday. “The post was made before the Lok Sabha poll dates were announced. I can’t understand how the Election Commission is operating.”
The Lok Sabha elections will be held from April 11 to May 19 in seven phases, the poll body announced on March 10. The results will be declared on May 23.