The BHARATIYA Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra government has spent Rs 6.61 crore on advertising between April and December 2015, about 50 per cent more than what the erstwhile Congress-NCP government spent in three fiscal years.
According to data obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by The Indian Express, the BJP-Shiv Sena government has spent Rs 6,60,75,013 as advertising expenses till December 21 this financial year.
The Congress-NCP government spent Rs 4.25 crore in three full fiscal years from 2011 to 2014.
In 2011-12, during the early days of the Congress-NCP’s third term in the government, the state spent Rs 71.01 lakh on advertising, nearly nine times less than the BJP-led government’s expenditure in 2015-16 till December.
With Lok Sabha and state assembly elections scheduled in 2014, the Congress-NCP government’s expenditure also inched up in the next two years, but was still about three times lower than the BJP government’s 2015-16 advertising spend. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, the Congress-NCP government spent Rs 1.48 crore and Rs 2.05 crore, respectively, as per data obtained from the state’s publicity division.
In 2014-15, the government spent Rs 1.27 crore with the Congress-NCP at the helm for the first seven months from April to October, the BJP alone in November, and the BJP and Shiv Sena in coalition from December 2014 to March 2015.
Shailesh Gandhi, former chief information commissioner, said, “The BJP-led government’s 2015-16 spending on advertising until now is clearly disproportionate. Any government’s advertising expenditure is 99 per cent through the political party that is in power. If they want to spend on publicity, they should do it from their own party funds and not public money.”
The Devendra Fadnavis-government spent Rs 3,28,50,422 , which is nearly half of the total Rs 6.61 crore that it has spent on advertising till December to mark its one year completion in the government.
This despite the government having decided to keep the celebration muted following severe drought in several parts of the state and a strain on the state’s coffers.
The chief minister had even said that there will be no celebration, but only effective communication with the people of the state to mark his government’s first year in office.
Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the expenditure should not be seen as advertising and should instead be looked at as the cost incurred on establishing a dialogue with the public.
“Simply having good schemes for the public welfare and keeping the information within the four walls of Mantralaya is of no use. We need to disseminate this information to people and create awareness about the various government schemes. Public dialogue and education is very important in any democracy.”
Congress’ Prithviraj Chavan, former chief minister, said the BJP government has only relied on creating hype through publicity and sloganeering rather than tangible achievements through actual work.
“If the expenditure on advertising is Rs 6.6 crore till December, going by this rate, by the end of the fiscal year it will easily reach about Rs 8-8.5 crore. We all knew that the BJP government both at the Centre and in Maharashtra is doing nothing but re-branding old schemes of the Congress-NCP government and to do that one has to spend a lot of money. Simply creating hype is not going to get this government very far though.”
Chavan also said that the figure reflects only what the state government has spent directly on advertising through its coffers.
“A lot of advertising expenses are hidden. The government must have spent a lot more through its corporations and agencies such as the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority,” the former chief minister added.