New Delhi, Feb. 9: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today defended his government’s pre-poll advertising splurge, dismissing criticism from the new chief election commissioner.
“That government money is being misused is wrong. It is part of the government’s duty that it should put its achievements before the people. The final decision is with the people,” he said.
Yesterday, T.S. Krishnamurthy, after taking over as chief election commissioner, had expressed his personal opinion that “taxpayers’ money should not be used for electoral advantages”.
Vajpayee said: “Once it (the code of conduct) comes into operation it will be strictly implemented in letter and spirit.”
Krishnamurthy had spoken of upholding “the spirit of the code of conduct” while admitting that the Election Commission was powerless to stop a campaign like the one the government is now running because election dates have not been announced.
The code of conduct takes hold once that is done and the government is taking advantage of the interregnum.
“His (Krishnamurthy’s) statement is correct from his point of view and what we are doing is correct from our point of view,” Vajpayee added.
“But it is wrong to say… taxpayers’ money is being misused. This (ad campaign) is a part of the government’s responsibility,” he said.
“Ours is a democratic party and we believe in democratic traditions. Every government in the past had resorted to ad campaigns to highlight its achievements…”
Shortly after the Prime Minister’s comments, Krishnamurthy paid him a courtesy call.
The BJP supported the government, though guardedly. After adding appropriate riders like “we respect the Election Commission and the model code of conduct”, spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “But the Centre is directly connected to the lives of ordinary people. The ads give information on the development projects the government has undertaken. There is nothing wrong… because it is connected to the lives of farmers, labourers, teachers and students….”
The ad being most spoken about in the BJP headquarters had little to do with the government’s “achievements”. Playing on TV and FM radio, the ad shows the Prime Minister saying lines from his own poem.
“Kabhi swapn dekha ta/ jo aaj har dhadkan main hai,/ ek naya Bharat ka man mein hai irada (I once dreamt a dream, that dream is beating in every heart today, the intention to make a new India is in every mind),” Vajpayee says.
The 40-second spot, which has the Tricolour fluttering in the background, shows bright-eyed children and cheery workers looking on as Vajpayee speaks.