Large posters of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi were on Tuesday removed from the airport premises following charges of breach of agreement between the advertiser and the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
AAI, which claimed that the advertising firm had not taken permission before putting up the posters, issued a showcause to the advertiser and asked it to remove the posters forthwith. Third Eye Communications Limited has got the advertising rights of the 10,000-square-feet area on the exterior of the airport terminal building for five years.
AAI claimed that the advertiser had breached a "certain clause" of the agreement, which said that it had to show the content of the advertisement and take permission from AAI before putting up any advertisement.
The advertiser, however, cried foul play. Manoj Saraf, who runs the advertising firm, said: "Never before has AAI insisted on seeing the content of the advertisement. During the last two years, many posters of nationalised banks and other agencies have been put up and AAI never insisted on seeing the content of the advertisement then. Moreover, the posters, which have been put up now on behalf of my client — BJP — are neither derogatory nor inflammatory in nature."
Saraf also claimed that he had duly informed the election commission as well as the district magistrate, Patna. "It was only after we got the requisite permission from the election authorities that we began putting up the posters. Besides, BJP had also taken separate permission from the district authorities over putting up Modi's posters at the airport," he added.
While the posters were put up in the wee hours of Tuesday, interestingly AAI did not react till about 3pm on Tuesday. It was only at 4pm that the airport began humming with "non-operational" activities. AAI also sent out a letter to the district administration, saying the advertising firm had not taken its permission before putting up Modi's posters.
A senior AAI official, requesting anonymity, said: "The airport is a government building. One is not supposed to put up posters of any political party on it. We cannot allow it."
Sub-divisional officer, Sadar, Pankaj Dikshit, told HT: "It is between AAI and the advertiser. Campaign materials can only be put up if the property owner gives permission for it. In the instant case, AAI claims it has not given any such permission."
Dikshit said the administration had removed a couple of posters, which were reminiscent of the 2002 Gujarat riots, and also showcaused a BJP functionary, who had sought permission for putting up posters at the airport.
As for the other Modi posters, he said, the district administration had not removed any. "We will act after we get a reply from BJP," he added.
Meanwhile, Saraf said: "We'll be applying afresh after removing the posters."