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Solar Scam continues to drown Kerala assembly

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Thiruvananthapuram: Ongoing ‘solar scan’ continued to cause chaos in the Kerala assembly following the argument between the Oommen Chandy government and the opposition.

Like on Thursday, when the assembly had to be adjourned following the opposition protests and demand for the resignation of Chief Minister Chandy on the charge of his involvement in the scam, acrimony between the two sides forced another adjournment soon after the question hour.

The trouble started when the treasury benches responded to the opposition raising the solar scam issue by referring to another scandal, of the year 2000 vintage, to embarrass the government.

The Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan of the CPI-M broached the solar scam through a submission when he asked Labour Minister Shibu Baby John to clarify a remark he had made on Thursday.

“Yesterday you (John) said that there is a deep-rooted conspiracy behind the way the prime accused in the scam, Biju Radhakrishnan, deposed before the judicial probe commission. At one point of time, you almost disclosed the name, but at the last second, two of your cabinet colleagues refrained you from revealing. So, today we wish to know who are behind this,” said Achuthanandan.

John then got up and said that at the appropriate time he would let everyone know who was behind this.

“It’s for this, I said yesterday that I am also going to implead before the Commission because this has to come out. But before that, I request Achuthanandan to reveal the VIP involved in the Killiroor sex scandal,” hit back John.

The Killiroor sex case saw a young teenage girl being sexually assaulted in early 2000. She later died in mysterious circumstances. Just before the 2006 assembly elections, Achuthanandan said there was a VIP behind the case and if he came to power he would take them to the task.

He did nothing even after becoming the Chief Minister.

John’s reference to Killiroor sex scandal had the entire opposition up in arms and they trooped into the well of the house, forcing Speaker N. Sakthan eventually to adjourn the proceedings for the day.

It was on Wednesday that Radhakrishnan told the commission that he had video evidence of Chandy and two of his cabinet colleagues in compromising positions with Saritha Nair.

Saritha Nair is the second accused and live-in partner of Radhakrishnan’s.

The solar scam came to light in 2013 when it was found that Team Solar, a fraudulent company, cheated several influential people of crores of rupees by offering to make them business partners or by offering to install solar power units for them and receiving advance payments for the same.

The company used two women to create political contacts with links even to the Chief Minister’s office.

Radhakrishnan, the main accused, and his live-in partner Saritha Nair were later arrested for cheating investors.

She is out on bail while Radhakrishnan is behind bars after it was proved that he murdered his first wife.(IANS)

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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)