NEW DELHI: Signalling that the Aam Aadmi Party will not pay 97 crores spent on advertisements by the AAP government to promote the party, Delhi's Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Friday claimed the Centre's three-member panel that made the recommendation had exceeded its brief and insisted that there was no way AAP could be told to pay for the advertisements.
Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on Wednesday ordered the Chief Secretary MM Kutty to recover 97 crores from AAP for advertisements, which the content regulation panel set up on the Supreme Court's directions had concluded, promoted AAP and its chief Arvind Kejriwal. The party has been told to pay up within a month.
"Why? Did AAP order those advertisements," Mr Sisodia, 45, shot back on Friday, insisting that the advertisements were issued to inform people about the steps taken by the state in various fields such as health and education as well as countering whisper campaigns against the government. "What is wrong in communicating with the people... telling them what the facts are," he said, adding that the three-member committee did not have the mandate to recommend recovery of money from AAP.
Ruling on two petitions including one filed way back in 2004, the Supreme Court had in 2015 come up with broad guidelines to ensure that government advertisements did not promoting a political party or its leaders and asked the Centre to set up a committee to track violations and recommend "corrective action".
The Deputy Chief Minister also wondered why the AAP government had been singled out when it was standard practice among state governments to not just issue advertisements , but also hold summits at five-star hotels in India and abroad.
"The Congress' Karnataka government also issued one such advertisement," he said, holding up national dailies that carried ads issued by state governments of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
But this is not the first time that questions have been raised about the AAP government's advertisements. The country's top auditor, Comptroller and Auditor General, said the AAP government released advertisements worth Rs 24 crore in violation of financial propriety and Supreme Court regulations in its first year, and another Rs 29 crore for ads outside Delhi.