Governments may no longer have unfettered freedom to splurge on “India Shining” and “Bharat Nirman”-style promotional campaigns and instead have to adhere to new rules aimed at curbing political mileage from official programmes.
The information and broadcasting ministry has set up a panel of experts to determine what constitutes legitimate official publicity and what could be a campaign towards political mileage. Its hands have been forced by an April 23 Supreme Court order to set up a committee that could make the rules of the game clearer.
Both the NDA and UPA governments had launched mammoth advertisement campaigns around public policies initiated by them, including welfare programmes, jobs and economy, ahead of polls.
The court’s order came after a petition by the non-profit Common Cause, which objected to the BJP-led NDA government’s India Shining campaign in 2004, an election year. It said such a media blitz led to “unwarranted expenditure” and disturb the level playing field.
The court had said there was a need to “distinguish between advertisements that are part of government messaging” and those that are “politically motivated” to “patronise media organisations”.
In the run-up to the 2014 polls, the UPA government had unveiled a staggered television and print campaign, showcasing its achievements.
In 2004, the BJP-led NDA government’s `150 crore-plus India Shining campaign had become a catchphrase for an emerging economy but a disconnect ensured the alliance lost power that year.
The committee, comprising Prof Madhav Menon, Ranjit Kumar, former secretary-general Lok Sabha and TK Vishwanathan, a former bureaucrat, are seeking views of political parties as the first step.