Friday, February 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Projecting image, Chautala style
By Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 3 — It is 5.30 p.m. in Chandigarh. The fax in a newspaper office crackles to a call from outside and a long message starts gradually emerging from the machine. It is a statement by Mr Dharambir Singh, Additional Political Secretary to the Haryana Chief Minister, and it details “achievements” of the Chautala-led Government.

As the Model Code of Conduct for the elections are now in force in the state, and proclamation from the government may be seen as a violation of the election code, the wily Haryana Chief Minister has, apparently, asked his ‘cronies’ to do the propaganda for him. By all accounts the “accomplishments” will be Mr Chautala’s chief poll plank, and government machinery in the state has been geared up to facilitate his aides’ attempts to impress the voters by getting ‘news items’ published in the media.

The statements, studded with figures and other details, have all the trappings of the familiar government press notes. The handouts of the CM’s Additional Political Secretary, who was a minor INLD functionary till the other day, covers a range of subjects under various government departments.

Mr Dharambir Singh’s latest statement, issued on last Wednesday, lauded the Chautala-led Government for “the highest achievement made so far in power sector in the history of the state.” His earlier statements were related to road construction, central cooperative banks and mini-banks network, revenue receipts and the like.

Mr Chautala’s Press Adviser has also been entrusted with the task of doing pre-poll propaganda and the two are, in fact, trying to outdo each other in issuing statements on the “strides” made by the state government. The adviser has no qualms about his party affiliation and his statements are circulated as “press releases” from the INLD. Sanctions on water and sewerage scheme in Haryana, adjustment of surplus staff of the municipalities following the abolition of octroi, etc, are some of the areas which has been dealt with by the Press Adviser, Mr Ram Singh Brar, in his longwinding messages.

Mr Vineet Punia, otherwise known as the INLD’s Media Coordinator, also made a brief appearance as yet another Additional Political Secretary to the Chief Minister.

Mr Punia’s statement, also issued in the form of an INLD press note, listed the steps taken by the state government for welfare of sportspersons and for promoting sports in the state. In his characteristic fashion, the Haryana Chief Minister had virtually promised everything for the sportspersons and Mr Punia’s statement claimed that the promises were “being implemented”.

The ‘promises’, which marked Mr Chautala’s rule of about six months, had, in fact, drawn considerable flak from the Opposition and the Congress had even drawn the attention of the Election Commission of India (EC) to the announcements being made by the Chief Minister at the ‘durbars’ (public courts).

While the statements by Mr Dharambir Singh, Mr Brar, Mr Punia, Mr Teja Singh, et al, probably, would not amount to violation of the poll code, what raised the eyebrows of certain political observers was the abject surrender by various government departments to the INLD’s propaganda machine.

The statements are, in fact, compiled by the Public Relations wing, one of the key departments of the Government of Haryana, and it is PR officials who fax them to newspaper offices. The only precaution taken by the PR department is that they put a fictitious number, 767677, as the sender’s fax number in the messages, a number which “does not exist”, according to the local exchange.

“All the ruling parties use the DPR’s infrastructure for propaganda during elections”, said a nonchalant official.

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