The Congress government in Rajasthan spent a little over Rs 25 crore in its first year in office — between December 2018 and November 2019 — on official advertisements in various newspapers and other publications but they carried only photographs of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and not of Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, the state’s Information and Public Relation Department has admitted.
Coming as it does after the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia after a power tussle with Chief Minister Kamal Nath and senior leader Digvijaya Singh in Madhya Pradesh, the admission shines a spotlight on the ongoing friction between Gehlot and Pilot in Rajasthan. Since the exit of Scindia, parallels have been drawn between Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — the context being the disharmony between established veteran leaders and ambitious young faces in the party.
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Sources close to Scindia maintained that he was being deliberately sidelined in state politics while the high command chose to look the other way. While the situation is qualitatively different in Rajasthan, where the high command sought to balance power equations by appointing Pilot as Deputy Chief Minister and allowing him to continue as president of the state Congress, the tension simmers just below the surface. They have sparred on several occasions, recently even on the deaths of over 100 infants at a government hospital in Kota.
Even on Scindia’e exit, Gehlot and Pilot spoke differently. While Gehlot attacked Scindia calling him an opportunist and his exit a good riddance, Pilot felt “things could have been resolved collaboratively within the party.”
“The sooner opportunists leave, the better. Congress party gave so much, held various posts for 17-18 years, was made an MP, a Union Minister. Despite all this, what came out was just an opportunist, public would never forgive,” Gehlot said yesterday. Pilot, on the other hand, said it was “unfortunate to see Scindia parting ways with the Congress. I wish things could have been resolved collaboratively within the party.” The Information and Public Relation Department, in its reply to an RTI query by one Advocate Sahiram Godara, revealed that the Government has spent Rs 25.08 crore on 62 advertisements in national and regional dailies and other publications, including Congress-backed National Herald and Navjivan, on various occasions between December 17, 2018 and November 11, 2019. The applicant had sought details and the total expenditure on government advertisements carrying the photographs of Gehlot and Pilot during this period.
The Information and Public Relation Department has given details of the advertisements which carried the photographs of the Chief Minister: occasion, publication and size wise with the expenditure incurred but as regarding Pilot, it said nil.
When asked about this discrepancy, Gehlot told The Indian Express that his government was merely following the guidelines of the Supreme Court.
“The Government works according to the guidelines of the Supreme Court. If you remember, the Supreme Court had first restricted the use of photographs of even chief ministers in advertisements. Then the Court revised its order permitting the use of photographs of chief ministers…Chief Minister thodi kahta hain ki photo meri lagao, kisi ke mat lago. This is a routine government work. Department ke kaam hain. And the department works according to the Supreme Court guidelines,” he said. When contacted, Pilot said “I have no comments to offer.”
Interestingly, the Supreme Court had in March 2016, while modifying its May 2015 judgement, allowed publication of photographs of chief ministers, Governors as well as cabinet and state ministers in public advertisements. It had earlier confined the publication to pictures of President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India.
“In lieu of the photograph of the Prime Minister, the photograph of the Departmental (Cabinet) Minister/Minister In-charge of the concerned Ministry may be published, if so desired. In the States, similarly, the photograph of the Departmental (Cabinet) Minister/Minister In-charge in lieu of the photograph of the Chief Minister may be published, if so desired,” the order had said.
Meanwhile, breaking his silence on Scindia’s exit, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said today that Scindia forgot his ideology as he was apprehensive about his political future and that he would not get respect in the BJP.
“This is a battle of ideology. Clear cut. On one side the ideology of the Congress and on the other the ideology of the RSS and BJP. I know Jyotiraditya Scindia’s ideology. He was with me in college…I know him very well. Jyotiraditya Scindiaji ko apna political bhavishya ka dar lag gaya (Jyotiraditya Scindia became scared of his political future) And he put his ideology in his pocket and went with the RSS. But the reality is that he will neither get respect there nor will he be able to satisfy the truth and emotion in his heart.”
“He will realise that. I have an old friendship with Jyotiraditya. Let it be. Scindiaji ke dil mein jo hai aur unke mooh se jo nikal raha hai wo alag alag cheez hain (There is a difference between what Scindia is saying and what is in his heart),” he said.
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