Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pre election advertisement politics

S R Ramanujan: Ever seen a sting or expose on how governments spend money on meaningless press advertisements? You won’t.

Before the Bihar elections, Lalu Prasad Yadav saw to it that his ministry released advertisements with a minimum of quarter page in all the major dailies of the country, never mind whether it was for opening a railway gate or a station in obscure locations, with his picture being a must. The added attraction was the mascot of a station master holding Lalu’s poll symbol -the lantern!

With elections round the corner in Tamil Nadu, the same pattern unfolds there, and is attaining ridiculous proportions. But, the actors are different. They are T R Balu, Union Minister for Surface Transport and Highways and Dayanidhi Maran, Communications Minister. If you look at the newspapers in Tamil Nadu, you may wonder whether there were no roads at all in the past in the state. Every alternate day there is an ad for the foundation stone laying ceremony of some highway or the other in the state issued under the auspices of Baalu’s department - National Highways Authority of India. A unique feature of such large ads is the inclusion of DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s picture alongside the pictures of the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi.

The Prime Minister’s picture is understandable in an ad released by a department of the Union ministry. Sonia Gandhi’s can be explained away because of her status as chairperson of the UPA. What is the relevance of Karunanidhi in an ad issued by the Union government, except that the state is slated to go for polls with MK playing a leading role as co-ordinator of a seven-party alliance

Will an ad by PR Das Munshi’s I&B ministry include Biman Basu of the Left Front in W Bengal?

While the "former chief minister, Tamil Nadu" (that is how MK was identified in the photo caption) was featured in the ad published in the Hindu and the Indian Express, he was conspicuous by his absence in the ads released for other national and regional dailies published outside Tamil Nadu, such as the Times of India, Deccan Chronicle (Bureaucrats in the ministry might not have known that DC is also published from Chennai) Economic Times, Financial Express etc. This gives out the motive behind the inclusion of MK in all the Union government ads in Tamil Nadu dailies. "

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