Lokayukta pulls up Delhi CM Dixit for party ads on public funds

The Delhi Lokayukta has pulled up chief minister Sheila Dikshit for misusing public funds in running an advertising campaign with a political motive ahead of the assembly elections in 2008.

The Lokayukta, Justice Manmohan Sarin, on Wednesday recommended that President Pranab Mukherjee caution Dikshit against the misuse of public funds.

He urged the President to "advise" the Delhi chief minister to reimburse a sum of Rs11 crore to cover half the cost of the advertisements in 2008; or any amount the President finds suitable.

"The pattern of advertisements published by the government of Delhi and the Congress party clearly establishes a proximate and inextricable nexus between the two," the Lokayukta observed.

The indictment came after an inquiry into a complaint by former Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta. He had charged Dikshit with abusing her position as chief minister by carrying out an advertisement campaign with a view to gaining political mileage in the 2008 assembly elections.

"Dikshit has betrayed Delhi residents by spending the hard-earned taxpayer's money to serve personal interests. She must step down immediately," said Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel in a statement.

Gupta alleged that the government machinery, particularly the department of information and publicity, was instructed to make an elaborate plan to project the chief minister in a positive light to gain advantage during election and overcome the anti-incumbency factor.

An article authored by Uday Sahay, the then director of information and publicity department, had disclosed the strategy devised by the chief minister and the department to make an elaborate campaign to overcome the 'anti-incumbency factor' and help her win the assembly election, the Lokayukta said in the order.

Dikshit was in charge of the department of information and publicity at that time.

"Besides being chief minister and minister in charge of information and publicity, the respondent kept a strict control over all the advertisements issued by various departments / ministries of government of Delhi and was thus directly responsible there for," the Lokayukta said.

If this standard were to be applied across India, most chief ministers of states, as well as organisations run by the central government, would be found guilty on the same count. However in most states the Lokayukta is toothless or non-existent.

Meanwhile the much-awaited Lokpal Act for a central anti-corruption watchdog remains in limbo.