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Govt says it seeks Sonia nod for ads

Thiruvananthapuram, April 30: A central directorate has said government advertisements are “approved” by the UPA chairperson’s office besides that of the Prime Minister, prompting the Opposition to cite this as evidence of its claim that Sonia Gandhi was involved in the government’s day-to-day running.

In reply to an RTI question, the Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity, which functions under the Union information and broadcasting ministry, said: “DAVP is the nodal agency of the Government of India and releases advertisements to the newspapers/periodicals on behalf of various ministries/departments. The designs of the advertisements are sent by the concerned client ministries/departments after due approval from the PMO and the office of the UPA chairperson.”

RTI activist P.G. Sunil Kumar, who hails from Kerala’s Ernakulam district, had sought the information.

The revelation comes at a time the Congress has come under attack from the Opposition over the claim by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s former media adviser, Sanjaya Baru, in a book that the PMO sought Sonia’s opinion before clearing key files.

Although the Congress has dismissed the claims made in the book, the BJP has seen in them a vindication of its allegation that the UPA chairperson played a role in the daily affairs of the government.

“I was curious about what’s happening in the echelons of the government, especially in the context of the elections and the political algorithm that may set in post-polls,’’ RTI activist Kumar said.

CPM politburo member M.A. Baby said: “If the UPA chairperson’s approval was sought for advertisements, then it shows involvement of an extra-constitutional authority.”

The general secretary of the BJP’s Kerala unit, K. Surendran, said the DAVP’s reply had “further lent credence” to the BJP’s allegation against the Congress president.

State Congress spokesperson M.M. Hassan, however, said he did not believe that the information given by the directorate was correct. “I don’t believe it,” he said.