Himansu Shekhar Rout

With the 2024 general elections drawing close, the major opposition parties in Odisha – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress – are sharpening their arsenal in a bid to corner the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) on several counts. Both parties have accused the ruling party of adopting a tactic to use government funds through some schemes for its own publicity.

The opposition seems to be ruffled over the way funds, sanctioned under Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha, are utilized for alleged publicity by using the BJD's party symbol for the programme. The BJP has already knocked on the doors of the Election Commission of India in this regard. The Congress had drawn the attention of the Governor towards the issue. 

However, the BJD countered the BJP, by pointing out that the lotus symbol has found a place in the G-20 logo.  

As per reports, Rs 50 lakh was sanctioned to each panchayat under Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha for which the conch symbol, the BJD's party symbol, was used in its logo. The opposition is seeing it as a tactical way of spending the government funds for publicity of the ruling party ahead of the election.

BJP leader Jatin Mohanty said, “The conch, the party symbol of the BJD used for Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha programme, glaringly violates the model code of conduct and Election Symbols and Reservation Allotment Order- 1968. The Election Commission should act on such violations. The public fund has been lavishly spent on party’s publicity in the guise of advertisement for the programme.” 

The BJP leader also demanded that the ECI should recover the funds spent on Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha from the party funds of the BJD.

Congress leader Nishikant Mishra also took exception to the use of the conch symbol for the publicity of the ruling party. “The BJD has been throwing all norms to the winds. By using public money, the government is issuing advertisements of Ama Odisha Nabin Odisha only to gain political mileage for the ruling party. We condemn such mischievous act and urge the government to refrain from issuing such advertisements.” 

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BJD’s Rajya  Sabha member Muna Khan countered the allegations, pointing out, "Leaders from all over the world had participated in the G-20 summit in New Delhi. You saw the lotus symbol (BJP symbol) as a part of the logo. Thousands of crores of public money were extravagantly spent on the publicity of the logo through the G-20 Summit. I want to tell my BJP colleagues who are raising such an issue to remove the lotus from the G-20 logo first and then discuss other symbols.”

As per a Supreme Court directive, party logos, party symbols or party flags cannot be used in the advertisement of government programmes and schemes. Besides, it was made clear that advertisement materials must not aim to influence public support for a political party or a candidate. It is the responsibility of the government to safeguard the trust and confidence in the integrity and impartiality of public service.

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