Bengaluru: The RTI reply revealed the funds were shelled out on hoardings by the Department of Information just ahead of the assembly polls. Publicity material and billboards have been put up on buses and auto-rickshaws, Metro rail pillars and bus shelters of the BBMP, and LED mobile vans and LED hoardings have also been put in place.
Separate allocations were made for publicity of other ministers, including KJ George and MB Patil. Besides the outdoor publicity, digital platforms and TV channels were also given advertisements, funds for which were allocated separately.
The ad blitz lasted from December 1 to March 20 and used taxpayers’ money before the model code of conduct kicked in – an average half a crore rupees per day to highlight the CM’s achievements during 5 years of Congress rule in the state.
The Siddaramaiah government had earmarked Rs 280 crores for the Department of Information and Public Relations in the 2017-18 budget. In February this year, the Chief Minister told the legislative council that the government in the year 2017-18 will spend Rs 123 crore towards publicity of its schemes, a stark contrast to the Rs 13 crore expenditure in 2013-14.
The BJP has called this a “criminal waste of taxpayers’ money”.
“Public taxpayers’ money was used to propagate programmes which have not been implemented. This government has spent more than Rs 600 crore in advertisements across various departments. Congress party must bear these expenses,” said S Prakash, BJP spokesperson.
The Congress justified this sum as one within limits. “This is budgeting done for an entire year. There is nothing wrong in it unless it exceeds the limit. It isn’t illegal or in violation of the code of conduct,” said Congress MP Syed Nasir Hussain.
However, the contrast in the amount spent in the first four and half years versus the three months in the run up to the elections raises questions on the intent of the advertisements.