Citing a finance ministry order from May, the Congress on Thursday flagged that the Narendra Modi government has directed to allot 40% of publicity funds earmarked for all ministries to the Central Bureau of Communications.
The Central Bureau of Communications, which functions under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, releases advertisements for the government departments.
In a tweet, Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh wrote that the order issued on May 19 “wholly undermines” the sanctity of the procedure of Parliament voting for budgets of all departments.
Citing documents, Ramesh said that Parliament had approved a Rs 200 crore budget for the Central Bureau of Communications for 2023-’24. However, as a result of the order, the allocation will balloon to more than Rs 750 crore, he said.
“Clearly this CBC [along with Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate] will be the spearhead of the Modi government’s election campaign for 2024,” Ramesh said. “The CBC is a ‘super czar’ dancing to the tune of the ‘PM urf Prachar Mantri’. But this propaganda machine didn’t have enough funds.”
The Congress leader accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government of usurping 40% funds and asked whether this move was not misappropriation.
“This directive is a further subversion of Parliament’s constitutional obligations,” he said. “Normally, the Government of India is referred to as the central government. “Under Mr Modi, it has become a Central[ised] Propaganda Machine.”
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari also questioned the motive behind the move. “How can Ministry of Information and Broadcasting by an executive order get spending rights on 40% of publicity budgets appropriated by Parliament under separate line items specific to each ministry,” he wrote in a tweet.
The Congress MP said that the funds “would be abused for political purposes” ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.