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Come elections, come advertisements...

It is a constant tug of war between the Election Commission and the political parties on keeping track of the government expenditure made to promote the interests of a ruling party. T N Seshan and his successors at the Election Commission did bring about a measure of control over such expenditure. But this is enforceable only after the schedule for election is announced. Before this, ruling parties go on a splurge of expenditure, both covert and overt, at the cost of the government.

In recent weeks, one could witness a spurt in government advertisements in the national television and large newspapers. eg. the lavish Bharat Nirman splurge.

There are other ingenuous methods of publicity. Finance Minister P Chidambaram has at his command the large number of public sector banks. These vie with one another to open branches at his constituency of Sivaganga. I think this small town has emerged among the most banked but with little economic activity to justify either development of agriculture or industry in that arid district. Of course, there are bank chairmen like M Narendra of Indian Overseas Bank who come out with more novel ideas. The bank celebrated its founder’s day in the national capital at which the Finance Minister and the Minister of State Namo Narain Meena were important guests. Think that banks from State Bank to IOB could splurge money at a time when their third quarter results showed precipitous drops in net profits with their NPAs ballooning!

Minister of Shipping G K Vasan keeps himself in the limelight, courtesy ports and other institutions coming under his control. One should be surprised to come across the sudden spurt in activities of these staid ports at Chennai, Ennore and Tuticorin, the Indian Maritime University... not much known for any worthwhile advertising, coming out with one programme or other including unveiling of statues, inauguration of vessel traffic management system, indoor stadium.... In his tenure of around eight years, I have never noticed him so active! His term as the member of the Rajya Sabha ended last month.

The other Congress minister from the state Sudarsana Natchiappan, Minister of State of Commerce, has been listed as the chief guest at a number of functions organised recently. With the dominance of  the AIADMK, the absence of a strong alliance to take on the AIADMK and the  deep divisions in the Tamil Nadu Congress, the return of these ministers appears uncertain. Perhaps these efforts are last flickers of a flame before  getting burnt out.


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