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Rs 56 Crore Publicity Blitz for Siddaramaiah to Counter Modi's 56 Inch Chest Ahead of Karnataka Polls

This money was spent on outdoor advertising solely devoted to the Chief Minister. Separate allocations were made for publicity of other ministers and for digital platforms and TV channels.

Revathi Rajeevan | CNN-News18

Updated:April 16, 2018, 10:13 PM IST
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Rs 56 Crore Publicity Blitz for Siddaramaiah to Counter Modi's 56 Inch Chest Ahead of Karnataka Polls
File photo of Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah. (Photo: Facebook)
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New Delhi: Numbers can sometimes have a funny way of putting things into perspective. Perhaps by coincidence, so it happened on Monday when an RTI reply revealed that the Congress government in Karnataka had spent around Rs 56 crores over the last three months to highlight achievements of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

The same number - 56 - was also touted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an elections rally in the run up to the 2014 general elections. He had famously directed the ‘chappan inch ki chati’ barb at Mulayam Singh Yadav, saying that a 56-inch chest is needed to develop UP like Gujarat. The remark has stuck and has been used repeatedly in the last four years to hit out at the PM by his opponents.

In Karnataka, the Prime Minister is yet to embark on a full-fledged campaign, but the amount was spent in order to counter his expected high-voltage campaign blitz closer to the election date.

This money was spent on outdoor advertising solely devoted to the Chief Minister before the model code of conduct could come into effect.

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 tax payers' money".

"Pubic tax payers' 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.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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