Pradeep Pattanayak

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) dispensation has spent a whopping Rs 378 crore in advertisements in the last five years. This has provided the state units of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress a peg to hang their attack on the government. 

The information received through the Right to Information Act (RTI) has laid bare the fact that how the government splurged crores of rupees on advertisement in the last five years to endear itself to the people of the state. 

It spent over Rs378.629 crore on self-propagation. The advertisements include front pages of newspaper advertisements and roadside hoardings. 

It has also been revealed that the lion’s share of the amount spent on advertisement was during 2018-19 alone, indicating the government opened its coffers during the election time. 

During the months in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, the government gave out advertisements to different dailies to the tune of Rs 12,14,63,000 and spent state revenue over Rs10,03,81,000 for putting up photos on roadside billboards.  

Similarly, the government had spent over Rs 61,94,00,000 on newspaper advertisements. The amounts in 2019-20 and 2020-21 were Rs 60 crore and over Rs 45 crore respectively.

With less than 20 months left for the 2024 general elections, the government has once again started spending money like water on advertisements. The RTI information reveals that the government has already spent Rs 76,27,39,000 on advertisements with no data on money spent on hoardings. 

Human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo said, “In the advertisements, the Chief Minister’s portrait took more space than contents. If the government is claiming that it has achieved popularity, it is because of these advertisements.”

Echoing the same, senior journalist Rabi Das said, “The government is spending much more in its own propagation. It can be seen that before the election year, newspapers would be booked for advertisements. This way, the government is earning popularity and, at the same time, having control over the media.”

The way the government is spending money on advertisements has not gone down well with the state units of BJP and Congress. 

BJP spokesperson Golak Mohapatra said, “They aren’t taking any yojana to the people. In order to win the elections, they are formulating some yojanas and after the election, forget about them. As their popularity has plummeted, they are spending crores of rupees to gain the same. Had they had popularity, they wouldn’t have spent this much on advertisements.”

Senior Congress leader and former OPCC chief Jayadev Jena alleged, “While they have spent Rs 380 crore officially in five years, the BJD has spent Rs 3000 crore unofficially. A government being in power for five terms wouldn’t have splurged money like this on self-propagation.”

In his reaction, BJD MLA Amar Satpathy said, “In this transparent age, there is a need for advertisement because it is a medium to reach out to the people. Money has been spent but the objective is to be taken into consideration. There is no use in making a mountain out of a molehill.”

(Reported by Harihara Chand from Bhubaneswar)