Patna: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies have a new headache in Bihar: rising prices of ‘dal’.
With prices of pulses shooting up across the country, the anti-BJP alliance is having a field day blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his central government.
And many voters in Bihar, in the midst of staggered assembly elections, seem to be in agreement.
“We voted for Modi (in the 2014 Lok Sabha election) as he promised to check price rise,” said Ganesh Rai, who runs a construction business near Chitkohra here.
“But he has failed to check the prices of food items. Dal is selling at Rs.200 a kilo. Who can afford it?”
It is an issue that affects not just the poor but the more vocal middle class too.
With hardly a week to go for the third round of the Bihar elections, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Lalu Prasad are going hammer and tongs against the BJP.
Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and RJD activists say they are playing the “dal card” against the BJP-led alliance in what is expected to be a tough contest for the 243-member Bihar assembly.
Sensing trouble, the BJP and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan — who is also the agriculture minister in the Modi government — and others in their camp on Tuesday began damage control by blaming the Bihar government for the state of affairs.
Paswan has been downplaying the issue of rising prices. At the same time, he has promised to provide cheaper dal if the BJP-led alliance wins in Bihar.
JD-U and RJD supporters gleefully recall the time when the zooming prices of onions caused electoral setbacks to the BJP in Rajasthan and Delhi in 1998.
Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar thunder at every election meeting that dal prices are shooting up because of the Modi government’s policies.
Lalu Prasad says this is how the poor have been deprived of pulses. “Modi has taken away the ‘dal’ in the poor man’s dal-roti.”
Nitish Kumar has hit back at Paswan after he blamed him for the rising dal prices in Bihar.
“If I am to blame, why is dal selling at Rs.200 a kilo in BJP-ruled states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan?” the JD-U leader keeps asking.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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)