Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday requested Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit to order a probe into the Rs 300-crore advertisement scam by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for using state funds to further its political goals and recover the amount from it.
In a letter to the Governor, the SAD President said the AAP government had earmarked Rs 750 crore for government advertisements in this fiscal and already spent a majority of the amount.
He said instead of spending this money to create awareness about government schemes in Punjab, the government had used the advertisements to promote AAP as well as its convener Arvind Kejriwal across the country.
“The government has thus not only violated the guidelines of the Supreme Court on usage of public funds for government advertisements but has also betrayed the trust of Punjabis,” he asserted while disclosing that around Rs 300 crore had been misused by AAP in this fashion.
Badal said since the Delhi Lt Governor had already taken notice of similar wrongdoing in Delhi and ordered recovery of Rs 97 crore, the Governor should order a probe into the entire advertising spent of the state government and quantify advertisements with political messaging so that this money could be recovered from the party.
Badal said the government had used public funds for political advertisements in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat during the recent assembly elections in both states.
He said the entire process was shrouded in secrecy with the government refusing to release RTI information on the advertisement spread.
He said partial information about internet spend revealed that the government spent Rs 1.75 crore on Facebook to reach out to Gujaratis exclusively from September 21 to October 22.
“Latest Facebook trend from December 12 to December 18 indicates the AAP government in Punjab is now spending money on advertisements in Rajasthan, which goes to the polls next year.”
The SAD president said all this was being done despite the fact that Punjab government’s revenue collections are on the downswing.
“So this activity is also bleeding Punjab’s economy and is preventing the AAP government from fulfilling promises made to Punjabis.”
Calling for separate action on the administrative side, Badal said: “It is clear that violations have occurred vis a vis government policies as well as violation of Supreme Court guidelines. The files concerning approval given to these illegal advertisements should be examined so that appropriate punishment can be meted out to the violators. The issue also needs to be examined vis a vis payment of kickbacks and commissions.”
Badal also requested the Governor to direct the government to put an end to all political advertisements immediately and order it not to issue advertisements outside the state, except for official programmes, which conform to government policies.
“The AAP government may also be directed to issue only those advertisements which are concerned with the welfare of Punjab and Punjabis,” he added.