Success stories of beneficiaries of government welfare schemes, targeted public service messaging, social media videos, info graphics and television commercials – in the days ahead, you are likely to hear and see more of the state’s achievements. Ahead of the Assembly polls, the state’s information and publicity department has got its outreach campaign off the ground, by issuing orders this month for the release of Rs. 40.9 crore of its budget. This allocation comes under its ‘special publicity campaign for government schemes’. The total allocation for the outreach campaign this year is Rs. 115 crore more than double from last year. In 2018-19, the government had allocated Rs. 80 crore under this head.Overall, the publicity budget for social and community services has been hiked from Rs. 88 crore in 2018-2019 to Rs. 140 crore in 2019-2020. Over the last ten days, the department has issued five orders releasing funds for advertisement and publicity campaigns in radio, cable television, movie theatres (Rs. 11.99 crore), print media (Rs. 15.29 crore), special campaign targeting women (Rs. 6.48 crore), public service hoardings (Rs. 5.50 crore) and social media campaigns and competitions (Rs. 1.64 crore).The special outreach for women seems to be in line with the BJP-led government’s focus on women in government schemes as well as spending ahead of the polls.The government orders state the aim of the spending is to create awareness about the existing government schemes, development works and ambitious projects among the general public. The publicity will be done through a range of ways, including television commercial, special televised programs, text messages, outdoor advertisements on hoardings, social media, print advertisements, etcFor instance, Rs. 70 lakh has been allocated for playing government advertorials (beneficiaries’ stories) in movie halls; Rs. 1.60 crore will be spent on creating special programmes for Sahyadri channel of Doordarshan and Rs. 2.51 crore on special news reportage through private channels.However, the government maintained this is part of its routine spending to create awareness. “The special publicity campaign is a routine budgetary spending of the department aimed at reaching out to the public and informing them about the existing government schemes. All organisations and governments carry out such programmes. We get this spending audited by a third party and adhere to the Apex court’s guidelines over publicity norms. It’s not linked to polls,” said Brajesh Singh, secretary, information and public relations department.The budget books for 2019-2020 show that besides the special publicity campaign of government schemes (Rs. 115 crore), the government will spend Rs. 10 crore to set up a media monitoring centre and Rs. 10 crore on hoardings (for government messaging) at taluka level. The BJP-led government has maintained it will face polls on the strength of development works and programmes it has undertaken over five years.