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.