Tuesday February 20, 2018
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BJP backs Vasundhara Raje even after she admits to helping Lalit Modi

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Pressure continued to mount for her resignation over help to former IPL chief Lalit Modi, but the BJP leadership has decided to back Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje for now, even after she reportedly conveyed to party leaders that she had testified on his immigration application document.

Raje met some party legislators on Thursday, while her office accused some TV channels of “constantly running” baseless and false news on her alleged links with Lalit Modi even as the Congress, which had shown a document about Raje testifying in favour of Lalit Modi’s British immigration application in 2011, continued to keep up pressure on Thursday for her resignation.

Bharatiya Janata Party sources said that Saudan Singh, who is organisational incharge of Rajasthan, and general secretary Arun Singh met Raje in Jaipur on Wednesday following Congress showing the purported document.

According to the sources, the chief minister told the two leaders that document contained her signatures. She is also learnt to have told the two leaders that she had testified in her personal capacity when she was the leader of the opposition in the Rajasthan assembly.

Raje is also learnt to have conveyed that she was willing to resign if other leaders facing accusations were willing to do so.

What has seriously embarrassed the BJP is her reported statement that she did not want her support to Lalit Modi to be made known to Indian authorities.

Party sources said Raje, who is scheduled to come to Delhi on June 27 for a meeting of Niti Aayog, had not been asked to resign so far. They said she had also dug in her heels and signalled that she would not resign on her own, and signalled she had support of the vast majority of BJP legislators in the state as well as MPs.

“While the leadership is concerned about image of the party being hit due to opposition’s pressure, it has to ensure that there are no divisions,” a party functionary told IANS.

Another functionary said the BJP leadership has decided to back the chief minister for now.
“Vasundharaji is not going to be asked to resign under any kind of pressure – be it from Congress or from media,” he said.

The RSS has also cautioned the BJP leadership against falling into any “media trial trap”, informed sources told IANS.

According to them, the RSS is of the view that if Raje is asked to resign, the pressure will mount on the BJP to take a call over External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is too accused of helping Modi in getting British travel documents for going to Portugal in 2014 after his Indian passport was revoked.

Raje on Thursday met her cabinet colleagues and party legislators and functionaries in Jaipur to gauge her support, state BJP sources said. More BJP leaders, including legislators, were expected to meet her on Thursday and Friday, the sources added.

“It seems the meeting with MLAs and others is a pressure tactic. She wants to tell the BJP leaders that she enjoys the support of the BJP state unit,” a BJP leader told IANS.

State Health Minister Rajendra Rathore, who is a known supporter, ruled out her resignation. “The BJP is fully behind the chief minister. There is no question of her resigning,” he said here.

The Congress has however taken an aggressive stand against Raje and threatened to launch an agitaion if she did not resign, while the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Aam Aadmi Party have also demanded her immediate resignation.

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AAP’S Media Spend Is Four Times That Of Previous Government: RTI Reply

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP's one year in power in 2016

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Picture of Arvind Kejriwal addressing a rally. Wikimedia Commons
  • The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore
  • The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government
  • A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016

The AAP government has spent an average of Rs 70.5 crore annually in the past three years on advertisements — four times more than the previous government’s expenditure on print, electronic and outdoor advertising, according to an RTI reply.

In the first year after assuming office in February 2015, the current government spent Rs 59.9 crore on advertisements, Rs 66.3 crore the next year and Rs 85.3 crore up to December 31, 2017, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) said in reply to an RTI application by IANS.

The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore. The Congress’ average was Rs 17.4 crore in the last five years of its rule (2008-2013).

Also Read: AAP welcomes BJP’s stand on inter-faith marriages

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers.

For instance, when the AAP government completed its first and second anniversary in 2016 and 2017, leading newspapers in the capital carried full-page advertisements, highlighting the achievements of the government.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons
The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons

In the run-up to celebrating its three years in office, the government in the first two weeks of February carried advertisements flashing pictures of the Chief Minister or other ministers. The highlights included the inauguration of community toilets, excellence awards distribution for students, a government meeting on “smart gaon”, and invitation of applications for scholarship schemes.

The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government.

Also Read: Blow for Kejriwal: EC recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

But the average advertisement rate charged by a leading English newspaper, comparing the Congress government and AAP government periods, has increased by about 17 percent, according to DAVP.

For the same period, the average rate charged by another leading English newspaper has increased by about 35 percent.

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016.

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons
According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements.

Last year, the government came under an opposition attack after Lt. Governor Anil Baijal asked the AAP to cough up Rs 97 crore spent on advertisements, allegedly to promote the party instead of the government. The LG order was based on a report by the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA).

Also Read: 5 Years of AAP: How Society Has Been Backstabbed by ChandaChor Kejriwal

The regulatory authority asked the Delhi government to assess the expenditure in issuing “those advertisements/advertorials in which the name of the Aam Aadmi Party is mentioned” and other factors.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there.

Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said he has “no comments” to offer on the increase in expenditure.

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons
The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons

Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken said: “They (AAP) are using the power of advertisements to put pressure on TV (channels) and newspapers. They are doing it ruthlessly”.

BJP MLA and Delhi Assembly Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta termed the government’s spending on advertisements as “irrational”. “Misuse of public money in this way is completely unjustified and unethical,” Gupta told IANS. (IANS)