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Is it high-handed or routine for Modi govt to insist on PM’s face on petrol pumps?

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State-owned oil companies have been using fuel stations across the country to promote government schemes, including the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

Many petrol pump dealers now allege they are being forced by oil companies to put up ad hoardings for these schemes, featuring PM Narendra Modi’s picture, ahead of the 2019 elections.

ThePrint asks: Is it high-handed or routine for Modi govt to insist on PM’s face on petrol pumps?

Posters with PM’s photo put up so more people can benefit

Ashwani Mahajan
National Co-convener, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch

Putting up hoardings and photographs of political leaders and publicising their achievements is not something new. This had happened during Atalji’s time when the golden quadrilateral was being publicised. Atalji had said that it is the duty of the government to publicise its schemes and programmes.

We see Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s photographs in almost every nook and corner of Delhi, including on the walls of government schools. We, the BJP, have not made it an issue.

Let’s take the example of West Bengal. One will find West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s photographs everywhere. I do not see any controversy there.

Earlier, we have seen the same with the UPA government. It had extensively put up photographs of Sonia Gandhi who was the Congress president at that time. She was not even part of the government, but her posters were everywhere.

To say that this government is doing something unusual or novel is grossly incorrect.

Let us look at the recent debate on petrol pump owners claiming that they are being forced to put up PM Narendra Modi’s photographs. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is a unique scheme that was initiated by the Modi government. Lakhs of people have benefitted from this programme. The scheme and its publicity posters bearing PM’s photographs have been put up so that more people can benefit. What’s wrong in that?

Also readBig task for BJP morchas: Contact 25 crore beneficiaries of govt schemes before 2019 polls

One must do a cost analysis of Modi govt’s exercise of putting up hoardings at petrol pumps

Dilip Cherian
Communications consultant

The practice of putting up hoardings to publicise government schemes has happened in the past and will happen in the future too. However, the NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised us Acchhe Din and that all public sector companies, whether they are banks or oil companies, will be profit-oriented and driven independently. Unfortunately, precious little has happened.

These oil marketing companies are being run by government officials, joint secretaries and the secretary rather than the CEO. Now if these companies were being driven independently, one would imagine that the hoarding space would be used to promote their own brands because it comes with a cost. The justification that the oil companies have given – that government schemes need to be promoted – is not enough. Let us understand that there is a commercial value attached to these sites. Besides, goods and services tax will also be applicable for use of that space and putting up hoardings in such large numbers.

Somebody should do a calculation to assess the overall cost of this exercise. If the oil marketing companies had full autonomy, would they have put up those hoardings? They may have used that space for other messages or for the promotion of their own brands, or may have even leased it out to other companies or brands, which in turn would have fetched them money.

Putting up hoardings with PM’s photo unilaterally cause for concern

Ravi Shinde
Former general secretary, Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers

Oil marketing companies are well within their rights to put up publicity hoardings with photographs of political leaders, including that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s, at petrol pumps.

They directly own several petrol pumps and the practice of displaying these types of hoardings is something that has been followed by previous governments too.

What does not augur well and is a cause for concern is the way this is being implemented. It is being done without any consultations. It’s being done unilaterally.

While in many cases these oil companies own petrol pumps, in other cases they are just part-owners or have leased out the space.

Ours is a democracy and it is obvious that not all petrol pump dealers will have the same political leanings. People’s reservations against putting up these ads need to be respected.

We do understand that government schemes need to be publicised by the oil companies and even the government to maximise their reach. But it has to be done in a democratic manner. This practice should be avoided, especially with the elections approaching.

Also readBJP not worried if welfare schemes bring votes, don’t link them to polls: Minister

Government-owned oil companies continue to be Centre’s mouthpiece

Mahua Venkatesh
Associate Editor, The Print

When you see huge hoardings carrying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photographs, screaming out to publicise his social schemes at petrol pumps, surely you will find nothing amiss. After all, this practice – displaying photographs of political leaders and publicising their achievements – is something that we Indians are familiar with. All governments – whether in states or at the Centre – have been doing it for years. It is not something initiated or confined only to Modi and his party.

However, what is amusing is that the BJP fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the promise of changing age-old practices and bringing in transparency in government-run firms. Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley promised that the government will maintain an arms-length distance with all public sector firms so that they can operate independently. Clearly, that has not happened.

Like any other government, Modi, with his eye on 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is using the state-owned companies to promote himself and the social schemes that have been launched during his time. The government-owned oil companies continue to be the mouthpiece of the Centre.

Although the oil companies are desperately trying to justify their actions saying that they need to promote these social schemes so that the benefits reach a larger section of the society, they are clearly being used by the government as publicity vehicles.

Compiled by Mahua Venkatesh, associate editor at ThePrint.

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  1. Nazi attitude. Modi ji, play any no. Of tricks, you will not be pm in 2019. Better save money for tea stall.

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