After grilling Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on publishing her photograph on the loan applications forms meant for SC/ST and OBCs last month, the Lokayukta of Delhi Justice Manmohan Sarin on May 22 indicted Smt Dikshit again for misusing the public funds on an advertisement campaign ahead of the last Assembly elections in 2008. The Lokayukta recommended the recovery of Rs 11 crore either from the Chief Minister or from the Congress Party.
The Lokayukta also recommended the President Shri Pranab Mukherjee to issue ‘caution’ to Smt Dikshit for the misuse of public funds for a series of advertisements carried out in print and outdoor media in 2007-08 with punchline ‘Delhi is changing’. The Chief Minister was holding charge of the Department of Information and Publicity when the advertisement campaign was carried out.
The Lokayukta had initiated the inquiry following a complaint filed in 2009 by the then Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta. In the complaint he had charged the CM with abusing her position as Chief Minister by carrying out an advertisement campaign with a view to gain political mileage in 2008 Assembly election. Gupta had alleged the Government machinery, particularly the Department of Information and Publicity, was instructed to make an elaborate plan to project the Chief Minister in a positive light to gain advantage during election and overcome the anti-incumbency factor.
On the advertisements carried out by the Congress as well the Lokayukta, the pattern of advertisements published by the Government of Delhi and the Congress clearly establishes a proximate and inextricable nexus between the two. “The advertisements issued by the Delhi Government on a particular subject, over a period of time in the election year culminated in Congress Party advertisements on the same subject. Both were published in the election year….there is a clear synergy and synchronisation between the advertisements issued by the Government and those by the Congress Party,” the Lokayukta order said.
Commenting on the development BJP demanded resignation of Smt Dikshit and accused her of ‘destroying the sanctity’ of Chief Minister’s office. “Sheila Dikshit has betrayed Delhi residents by using hard earned tax payers’ money to serve personal interest. She must step down immediately. If she does not step down, then she should be sacked immediately. Also a case of misusing public money should be immediately lodged against her,” Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel said.
The Lokayukta also recommended to the President to direct the Government to frame guidelines for publication of Government advertisements to prevent misuse of public funds in future. In the order, the Lokayukta favoured specific norms for publication of photographs of national leaders of political parties in Government advertisements to discourage developing a ‘personality cult’ or ‘advancing political interests’.
The whole advertisement game plan of the Congress was basically exposed through an article carried out by some newspapers on June 29, 2008 in which the writer Udai Sahay, who was then Director of Information and Publicity Department, disclosed the strategy devised by Chief Minister and her department to make an elaborate campaign to overcome the anti-incumbency factor for her and to project the Chief Minister win the election in 2008.