The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its supporters have spent the most on political advertisements on Facebook since February, a report by the social media website showed. The report said that the total ad spending of all Indian parties and their supporters in the period stood at Rs 8.38 crore, with 41,514 commercials released between February 1 and March 23.

Of these, the Bharatiya Janata Party spent Rs 7.37 lakh on 593 advertisements, while the Congress spent Rs 5.91 lakh on 491 advertisements. Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat, a pro-BJP Facebook page, spent Rs 1.15 crore on 2,498 ads carrying disclaimers, and Rs 1.08 crore on 1,227 ads without disclaimers.

In February, Facebook had said political advertisements on its platform will carry a disclaimer, providing details about those who share such posts, PTI reported.

My First Vote For Modi, a pro-BJP page, was the second-highest spender, releasing 5,984 ads at a cost of over Rs 61 lakh. Another pro-BJP page, Nation with NaMo, spent nearly Rs 60 lakh on 1,481 commercials with a disclaimer and Rs 58 lakh on advertisements without a disclaimer.

The Naveen Patnaik Facebook page spent a total of over Rs 33 lakh on 187 ads during the period, the data showed. The advertisements were released either by Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal or politician Sasmit Patra.

During the March 17 to March 23 week, the My First Vote for Modi page garnered the most advertisements – 1,939 – at a cost of Rs 46.6 lakh. The Indian Political Action Committee spent over Rs 17.5 lakh on 158 ads. Bharat Ke Mann Ki Baat spent Rs 9.68 lakh on 640 advertisements, the Naveen Patnaik page Rs 9.13 lakh on 55 ads, the Nation with NaMo page Rs 6.61 lakh on 156. The Congress spent Rs 5.28 lakh on 410 advertisements.

Chief Election Commissioner of India Sunil Arora had said last week that Facebook, along with Twitter, Google, and YouTube, has promised to ensure that all political ads on their platform will need to be pre-approved by the poll body’s media certification and monitoring panel. The commission has also set up media certification and monitoring committees in every district to counter paid news and media-related violations of the Model Code of Conduct, which came into force on March 10.

There have been concerns about pro-BJP Facebook pages offering freebies for votes. The range of goodies offered by the My First Vote for Modi page includes badges, bags, T-shirts, phone covers and caps. “Pledge your first vote for PM Modi for the better India and win exciting goodies,” read the ads.

The 2019 General Elections will be held from April 11 to May 19 in seven phases, and the results will be announced on May 23.