A Right to Information (RTI) petition has revealed that the Union government has spent over ₹3,600 crore in less than three-and-a-half years on advertisements featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers of the government.
The information provided by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity was for expenditure between April 2014 and October 2017. In a reply to the RTI filed by Ramveer Tanwar, the officials stated that the government had spent over ₹1,600 crore on advertisements and promotions through electronic media during April 2014 to June 2017. It includes promotions through community radio stations, digital cinema, Doordarshan channels, AIR, internet and public relations.
The reply from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry says that the government has spent around ₹1,700 crore through advertisements in newspapers and ₹400 crore was spent on outdoor publicity and it includes hoardings, banners and billboards.
In another RTI response filed by Tanwar last year, the ministry had revealed that the Union government has spent over ₹1,100 crore in two-and-a-half years on advertisements featuring the Prime Minister.
The ministry had then stated that ₹448 crore was spent from June 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015 and ₹542 crore and ₹120 crore was spent from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 and April 1, 2016 to August 31, 2016 respectively.
However, the BJP government’s expenditure is never questioned, but the Aam Aadmi Party’s ad spend of ₹97 crore was highlighted. Earlier in March this year, Lt Governor Anil Baijal directed that ₹97 crore be recovered from AAP that was allegedly “splurged” by the city government on advertisements. The LG had stated that it was in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines and had ordered an inquiry into the money spent on advertisements projecting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party, though the Supreme Court in 2016 permitted the use of photographs of governors, chief ministers, Union and state cabinet ministers in government advertisements, modifying an earlier order that restricted the use of photographs to only three top dignitaries.