AAP shows resilience in paying Rs 97 crore bill on government Ad spending

Facing flak over the issue of overspending on advertisements, the Arvind Kejriwal-led government challenged the authority of the SC-directed panel in issuing recovery orders
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

“The three-member committee comprising of Rajat Sharma and Piyush Pandey has no authority to recover the money or give orders in this regard,” said Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia as he brushed away allegations of overspending by the party on advertisements. Hinting that the AAP is not likely to cough up Rs 97 crore, the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi challenged the power of the Supreme Court Panel in issuing such an order. The direction from the LG asking the party to pay the amount for overspending on advertisements outside the state was based on the conclusions of the court panel set up by the Supreme Court.

Rejecting the directive issued by the committee, the senior AAP leader indicated that there is a conflict of interest within the members of the committee as two of them have close links with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is worth mentioning that the Supreme Court had directed the formation of a panel which would act as an ombudsman and would comprise of “people with impeachable neutrality and impartiality.”

Sisodia, who also holds the portfolio for Information and Publicity, said that the AAP was being singled out when almost every other state government was showcasing its work throughout the country by issuing series of advertisements. He retorted, “Our government in Delhi is not the first state in the country which has given such ads.” Without naming former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, the AAP leader took a jibe saying, “The previous government also projected their works through summits held in five star hotels in various states and even outside India when business summits were held in London, but the AAP is being projected as the first such party whose government has spent on advertising. We fail to understand this partial behaviour.”

Holding up national newspapers carrying government advertisements of Karnataka, Sisodia said, “When the Congress party releases such advertisements throughout the country, it's just another ad. But when our government does it, it's a crime. The ads issued by our government were all focussed on the works done for the people in the field of education, water, electricity, PWD and others.” 

Calling it another desperate attempt by the ruling party (BJP) in the MCD to divert the attention of the voters from important issues, the Patparganj MLA said, “The recovery notice was issued days after the CM announced that if the AAP wins in the upcoming MCD polls, residential house tax will be waived.”

Earlier on Wednesday, LG Anil Baijal had ordered Chief Secretary MM Kutty to recover Rs 97 crore from the AAP on the basis of the conclusions drawn by the content regulation panel which found that public money was used in a wrong fashion to promote Chief Minister and AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal. The advertisements were investigated on a complaint filed by Delhi Congress chief Ajay Makan in which he said that the money was being used for advertisements outside the state in order to ‘glorify’ the CM.

A report released by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) added to the woes of the five-year-old party when it pointed out that the Delhi government violated the Supreme Court ruling by spending Rs 29 crore on advertisements outside the National Capital Region.

The apex court in 2015 had said that government ads cannot feature Chief Ministers and other political leaders, except the President, Prime Minister, and the Chief Justice of India. The rule was relaxed in 2016 when the court permitted photos of Chief Ministers to be used in advertisements. 

Criticising the directive issued by the LG office, the Deputy CM said that the advertisements were released with the intention of informing people of the work being done. “We will keep on communicating with the people who have elected us for doing good work, we will continue informing them about the developments, challenges and achievements of this government,” he said.