Twitterati abuzz about Jio using PM's picture in ad campaign

From questions on legality to the most preposterous jokes, people on Twitter had a field day panning Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Reliance Jio after the country woke up to full page jacket advertisement in national dailies of the PM dressed in a blue jacket with words 'Jio: Digital Life' pasted under him.

A day after the announcement of the launch of Reliance Jio, the Mukesh Ambani-controlled firm, part of the Reliance Industries conglomerate, floated advertisements in all major dailies. "In the journey of time, there come a few life changing moments. Our honourable Prime Minister's inspiring vision of a Digital India is one such movement. Jio is dedicated to realising our Prime Minister's Digital India vision for 1.2 billion Indians. Jio Digital Life will give the power of data to each Indian to fulfil every dream and collectively take India to the global digital leadership," the advertisement read. 

No doubt the company's legal team would have examined the ramification of using the PM's image without, presumably, his express permission. But within hours Twitter was flooded with lakhs of reactions, with many wondering if the Prime Minister is now the brand ambassador of Jio.

Political rivals, stand-up comics - almost everyone had something to say about the advertisements. For almost eight hours on Friday morning Reliance, Mukesh Ambani and the Prime Minister were among the top trends on Twitter.

Many of the users asked if it was legal for a prime minister to be featured in an advertisement like this. From being called the salesman of the year to 'Mr Reliance', brickbats came from all sides.

It prompted sharp criticism from the Congress and from Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. In a series of tweets, Kejriwal lambasted the PM over his association with Reliance. "Modiji, you carry on with modelling for Reliance. The labourers of India will unite to teach you a lesson in 2019," he said in one of his tweets. He even called the PM Mr Reliance.

The Congress sought a clarification from the PM over the issue. "We would like the PM to clarify. If his permission was sought for the advertisement," Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken told Business Standard. According to Maken, the pictures of the PM should be used in any advertisement with great caution and should follow strict norms.

The Congress leader said that if the Prime Minister's Office did give permission for the Reliance Jio advertisement, similar requests in future may come from other corporates as well. "Tomorrow Cadbury's or Amul may want to use the PM's picture in their advertisements. Will he give permission to them or to any other company?" said Maken.

Maken, a union minister in the previous UPA government, pointed out that even he, as a minister, had to obtain written permission from the PMO if his ministry wanted to use then PM Manmohan Singh's picture in an advertisement. "There are laid down norms for the use of a PM's picture - if the permission was not given to Reliance Jio for this advertisement, then the PMO can take action in the matter," he said.

"These ads put to rest the doubts as to who the pradhan sevak works for. Jio Hind is the new anthem," Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted. "Dear creative heads at Jio, your biggest strength is the tariff you are offering not the brand ambassador you are highlighting," she said.

Nishant Gambhir a public rights lawyer, tweeted that he has filed a Right to Information application regarding the ad. "I'm surprised to see PM @narendramodi in a @reliancejio ad. Have asked (about it) to the PMO in my RTI," he said.

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan tweeted, "Ambani&Modi:A mutual admiration society. As RIL runs full pg ads with PMs face, forget recovery of 11kCr of stolen gas''.