Mumbai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's sellout speech at New York's Madison Square Garden last month is being aired repeatedly as a BJP ad on local channels in Maharashtra, which votes on Wednesday.
The Congress has complained to the Election Commission that many channels showed the re-run without a loud and clear sign that it is an ad; the party also accuses the BJP of misusing a speech by Mr Modi during an official tour as the country's Prime Minister.
The BJP counters that the Madison Square Garden event was a private function, and it is within its rights to use past speeches of its star campaigner. "The Madison Square Garden event was private and organized by friends of the BJP. It was not a government function," BJP leader Vinay Sahasrabuddhe told NDTV.
Election rules allow ad spots if the channel makes it clear that it is promotional. PM Modi's half-hour speech was shown yesterday on Marathi channels in prime-time slots.
A source in one of the TV channels that telecast the speech said it ran a disclaimer and also indicated that it was an "advertisement" during the speech.
"This was a paid advertisement. Nobody should have a problem with it. The expenditure is reflected in our accounts," said Mr Sahasrabuddhe.
Some channels will also air the speech today, the last day of campaigning for the polls. The BJP had put out newspaper ads urging people to catch the telecast of what they called "The Speech That's Creating Waves across the World".
The Congress and the NCP, which co-governed Maharashtra till last month, claim that some channels did not run the advertorial sign through the speech, which can be construed as "paid news", or publicity disguised as news.
"When the PM goes abroad he is not a BJP propagandist. He is the PM of 125 crore people," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
During his US visit last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed a crowd of some 20,000 at the blockbuster event organized at the New York venue famous for rock-star concerts.