M A I N   N E W S

Yatra: It’s official, says Amarinder Singh
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 10
After days of speculation over of who will bear the cost of Capt Amarinder Singh’s much publicised “Vikas Yatra”, it has been finally designated as an “official function”. The logic is that the Chief Minister is entitled to publicise the development work he did for the state during his tenure. Officials today said there was nothing wrong in the Chief Minister publicising his work and quoted the example of similar “sangat darshans” held by Mr Parkash Singh Badal during the fag-end of his tenure as Chief Minister.

Sources within the government said that the Public Relations Department had sent a note asking if the publicity for the yatra was to be done using state funds or not. The Chief Minister was apprised about the same and he has declared it as an official event. Very clear instructions in this regard have been issued today. Contrary to reports in the media and the buzz in the officials circles, there has been no written recorded dissent by any senior officer on the file that was moved to decide the status of the yatra. Only the Principal Secretary, PR, Mr D.S. Jaspal, had asked what should be the status of the yatra, official or unofficial. That was no more than a query and cannot be construed as a dissenting note of any sort, said a senior functionary in the government.

Since an approval from the Chief Minister was pending, the PR Department was doubtful over who will fund the advertisements for the yatra. After today’s instructions the matter was cleared. About Rs 2 crore will be spent on the publicity and another Rs 40 lakh will be spent otherwise, said sources. Meanwhile, questions are being raised in certain circles as to how the photographs of Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo are appearing in advertisements propagating the yatra if its an official function.

In a separate development today, Mr D.S. Jaspal ordered an inquiry into the publication of an allegedly fabricated photo of crowds surging in on the “vikas yatra”. Mr Jaspal has asked how the photo was published and who authorised its release. The release of advertisements and the related work of the yatra is being handled by a private agency. Well-placed sources said the Chief Minister was livid at seeing the allegations of the Akalis that the Congress had fabricated a photo in the advertisements .

Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Dr Daljit Cheema, today shot off a letter to the Election Commission of India seeking the immediate imposition of the model code of conduct. He said the government machinery was being misused and precious public money was being spent for the election campaign of ruling Congress part.

The SAD alleged that this yatra had been planned by the ruling Congress party keeping in view the general elections to the state Assembly, due in February, 2007, and which is being led jointly by the state Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo. Both are delivering purely political speeches, said Dr Cheema, who has also sent a copy of his letter to the Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab.

He alleged the state was bearing the cost of the advertisements which feature Mr Dullo though he has no connection with the working of the government.

The party also attached copies of all the advertisements issued by DPR as well as the press clippings of the news items published in this regard.



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