Why did Rajasthan’s PR department protest against covering Modi’s Ajmer rally?

07 October 2018
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's Gaurav Yatra was a mammoth publicity campaign coming in the backdrop of crucial by-elections losses for the BJP.
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's Gaurav Yatra was a mammoth publicity campaign coming in the backdrop of crucial by-elections losses for the BJP.

On 6 October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off BJP’s campaign for the Rajasthan assembly elections by addressing a huge rally on the outskirts of Ajmer city. The rally, which coincided with the Election Commission’s announcement of poll dates for the state, was the culmination of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s Gaurav Yatra—a massive 40-day public outreach crisscrossing the state, perched atop a luxury bus.

The previous day, employees of Rajasthan’s Department of Information and Public Relations, or DIPR, submitted a letter protesting against an order that asked DIPR to manage media for Modi’s Ajmer meeting. The letter was signed by Sitaram Meena, the president of the Public Relations and Allied Services Association of Rajasthan, or PRASAR, the union of DIPR employees. It was addressed to the chief secretary of the Rajasthan government, and complained that government machinery was being deployed for the BJP’s Ajmer campaign rally in violation of a recent high court judgment.

The Gaurav Yatra had run into trouble soon after it was launched, on 4 August, when it was hauled to court over charges that state machinery and funds were being used for political purposes. Two writ petitions before the Rajasthan High Court challenged orders issued and tenders floated by the state’s public-works department, and a DIPR notice directing employees to provide media coverage —all ostensibly for the yatra. On 5 September, the court pronounced its judgment forbidding any state-sponsored functions, exhibitions or launches during the course of the yatra.

Among other aspects, the court had considered an order issued by the DIPR on 2 August, which deputed officers for media management for the Udaipur leg of the Gaurav Yatra and “publicity to the functions organised by the State.” The court did not expressly declare the government order illegal, and notes that during the course of the yatra, DIPR “would be coordinating media publicity not only to the political yatra i.e. Gaurav Yatra of Chief Minister but even publicity to the social welfare schemes of the Government.” Towards the end of the judgment, however, the court notes:

So intermingled are the State sponsored and State financed programmes with the Gaurav Yatra that it would be impossible to segregate one from the other … To a common man, if during the Gaurav Yatra, which is a political event, the leader of a political party who happens to be the Chief Minister inaugurates public functions, the understanding would be the glorification of the political party and not the glorification of the achievements by the Government.

Tushar Dhara is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. He has previously worked with Bloomberg News, Indian Express and Firstpost and as a mazdoor with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan.

Keywords: Gaurav Yatra BJP Assembly Elections Prasar Narendra Modi Vasundhara Raje Rajasthan media Ajmer DIPR Rajasthan High Court