Latest in L-G vs AAP: Party gets notice to return Rs 97 crore spent on ads

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GOVERNMENT FUNDS allegedly being used for political advertisements is the latest flashpoint between the Delhi Lieutenant Governor and AAP, with the former directing the Chief Secretary to recover Rs 97 crore from the ruling party.

L-G Vijai Kumar Saxena cited recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA), which had ruled that government funds were misused for ads.

Saxena’s latest directive prompted a sharp reaction from AAP, with its spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj saying that the L-G “doesn’t have any idea or knowledge” of rules, and accusing him of “dancing to the BJP’s tunes”.

The ads issue was first brought to the committee’s notice in 2016 by former Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken, when he had filed a complaint against the AAP alleging violation of guidelines.

The ads include some given in newspapers outside Delhi, such as in Tamil Nadu, about the Delhi government’s achievements and a full-page advertisement on AAP’s anniversary, it is learnt.

According to officials, former L-G Anil Baijal had raised similar objections, accusing the AAP government of using the state exchequer to pay for advertisements issued by the party.

The issue of advertising has also been used by the BJP to attack the AAP, with party leaders alleging that money meant for social welfare was used for publicity.

AAP’s Bhardwaj said, “The L-G doesn’t have any idea or knowledge about law and rules. He is dancing to BJP’s tunes. They are asking AAP to pay Rs 97 crore, but what about the ads by BJP, Yogi Adityanath, and about Gujarat elections that get published in Delhi? AAP has become a national party… BJP and L-G can try as hard as they want but AAP will stand tall and will not allow anyone to stop the good work being done in Delhi.”

Following orders of the Supreme Court, the Central Government had in 2016 formed a three-member committee to regulate advertising content.

This committee had subsequently investigated advertisements issued by the Delhi government’s Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP).

According to officials in Raj Niwas, it was found that over Rs 97 crore was allegedly spent and payments worth Rs 54 crore were pending. They added that in 2017, the DIP had directed AAP convener (Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal) to pay Rs 42 crore to the state exchequer immediately, and directly pay the remaining amount to the advertising agencies involved within 30 days.

The L-G, in his letter, stated that in the past five years, AAP had not complied with the order.

The L-G wrote to the Chief Secretary: “It has also been brought out that such advertisements that are prima facie and blatantly violative of the Supreme Court order have been continuously issued by DIP on direction of the ministers. One such example of wasteful expenditure in violation of the Supreme Court order is the case of advertisements in the bio-decomposer project. While the entire cost for the bio-decomposer project was Rs 41.62 lakhs, the expenditure incurred for advertising it was Rs 16.94 crore, which is 40 times higher than the project cost.”



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