Government ads welcoming BJP leaders irk Congress

Panaji, June 7 (IANS) A string of advertisements released by the Goa government welcoming top party leaders to the weekend conclave of the Bharatiya Janata Party's national executive has irked Congress leaders.

Speaking to reporters at the state party headquarters in Panaji, Congress MP Francisco Sardinha said Friday he was "surprised" that the state government has spent public money on advertisements promoting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders at a time when the state faced a cash crunch.

"I am surprised that such ads have been released. It should not have been done. My party will take up the issue. It is public money, and does not belong to the BJP or any other party to splurge like this," Sardinha said.

On Friday, a local newspaper published a string of advertisements welcoming BJP leaders L.K. Advani, party chief Rajnath Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj.

The advertisements, officially released by the state government's Department of Information and Publicity (DIP) also carried mugshots of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Deputy Chief Minister Francis D'Souza.

According to a DIP official, the total ad spend would be approximately Rs.14 lakh. The official said that the advertisements only featured those BJP leaders who had been invited as state guests, as per protocol.

"The advertisements only feature state guests. They have been formally invited by the state and the ad welcomes them," the official said, reacting to the Congress charge, adding that another series of ads would be released Saturday.

The Goa government's Ministry for Information and Publicity had slashed advertising spend by over 50 percent in the current financial year, even as a prolonged mining ban has hit state coffers, forcing the government to curtail expenditure and come up with innovative revenue generation measures.

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