Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin on Wednesday recommended to President Pranab Mukherjee that Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit be administered a caution for misusing public funds in government advertisements to further her political interests, as revealed in an article “Sheila Ki Campaign Ranniti,” ahead of the 2008 Assembly election.
Justice Sarin has also recommended that the President advise the Chief Minister “to reimburse either herself or through her party a sum of Rs.11 crore as half of the cost of the advertisements in the election year, used for the party’s political purposes.”
The Lokayukta recommended framing of guidelines for publication of government advertisements on developmental works and incorporation of safeguards to prevent misuse of public funds by adoption of similar methods.
The Lokayukta conducted an enquiry against the Chief Minister on a complaint by former Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta who alleged that Ms. Dikshit abused her position by hatching a plan in 2007 to misuse public funds for an ad campaign to gain political mileage in the 2008 election.
It was alleged that 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 and thus overcome the anti-incumbency factor.
The Lokayukta said it was an article authored by the then Director of Information and Publicity Uday Sahay that “proved to be the undoing of Chief Minister.”
In the article published in a Hindi daily in 2009, Mr. Sahay had allegedly disclosed the strategy devised by the Chief Minister and his department to make an elaborate campaign.
The Lokayukta said the Chief Minister chose not to rebut or lend any evidence in spite of the article having been written by her aide and Director of Information and Publicity revealing their campaign strategy.
He said it was alleged that the expense for the government advertisements, which in 2004-05 was Rs. four crore, increased by five times to touch approximately Rs. 22.56 crore in 2008-09.
The Lokayukta noted that the government advertisements culminated in the Congress advertisement carrying the slogan Parivartan ki dor tute na (the string of change should not snap), leading one to believe that it was the Chief Minister and the Congress that brought about all the positive changes in Delhi.