Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena with Chief Minister and AAP boss Arvind Kejriwal at a function. (File)
Days after the AAP ran a successful poll campaign for Delhi's civic body, the Lieutenant Governor has ordered that the party pay Rs 97 crore for state government ads that had allegedly been used for the party's promotion five years ago. The AAP has said the Lieutenant Governor has no power to issue such orders — calling it "a new love letter".
Earlier this month, the AAP, which holds power in the Delhi assembly since 2015, ended the 15-year reign of the BJP in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).
Lt Governor VK Saxena has taken the action on ads because the AAP allegedly violated orders of the Supreme Court (2015) and the Delhi High Court (2016), besides norms set by the court-mandated Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (2016), reported news agency ANI.
The Chief Secretary has been directed to recover the money spent from Delhi government funds.
AAP MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj questioned the legality of the directions after the order was reported in the media this morning, and pointed towards "other state governments' ads".
"The BJP's various state governments issued advertisements that have been published here (in Delhi). We want to ask: When will Rs 22,000 crore spent on the advertisements be recovered from them," the AAP MLA said, "The day that money is recovered, we will also give Rs 97 crore."
He added, "The BJP is flustered that we have become a national party and wrested power from it in the MCD. L-G saheb is doing everything in accordance with the BJP's directions, and that is troubling the people of Delhi. The more worried Delhi's people are, the happier the BJP gets."
The AAP has been alleging "political vendetta" by the Lieutenant Governor, who is appointed by the central government and has control over several wings of Delhi's governance in a complex — often confusing and conflicted — distribution of powers in the national capital.
Runs-in between successive appointees of the BJP's Narendra Modi government and Arvind Kejriwal's AAP government have been regular fixtures, ranging from corruptions allegations at each other and contradictory orders on administrative matters.
The ad issue goes back to 2017, when the Delhi government's Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) — acting on a 2016 directive of a committee set up by the Union Government on court orders — had said Rs 97.14 crore had been spent or booked for "non-conforming advertisements".
"Of this, while payments amounting to over Rs 42.26 crore had already been released by the DIP, Rs 54.87 crore for advertisements published were still pending disbursal," news agency PTI quoted a source as saying.
The directorate had in 2017 first asked the AAP to pay the Rs 42.26 crore immediately to the state treasury, and directly pay Rs 54.87 crore pending to advertising agencies or publications, within 30 days. "However, even after the lapse of five years and eight months, the AAP has not complied with the DIP order," the source added, as per PTI.