A political fight has started between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress over print advertisements in local Hindi dailies in Chhattisgarh.
Now, the Congress has written a letter to the Press Council of India alleging that under the Raman Singh government pressure, five dailies refused to carry its full-page advertisements. In the letter, however, the Congress did not mention the names of the local dailies.
Congress leaders in the state said that they wanted to publish advertisements highlighting the misrule and corruption cases of the BJP government in Chhattisgarh.
The advertisements were planned for Thursday, on the day BJP president Amit Shah visited the capital city, Raipur. Currently, Shah is on a three-day visit to the state where he will be attending 22 meetings as a part of strengthening the party ahead of 2018 assembly elections.
While the Congress' "anti-BJP" advertisements did not make it to the print, Shah got warm welcome on front pages of almost all the leading newspapers of the state on Thursday.
"The BJP National President Amit Shah is in Chhattisgarh between 8 and 10 June, and being an opposition party we wanted to ask some questions regarding issues of Chief Minister Raman Singh's corruption to Amit Shah. With that in mind, the state Congress committee decided to print advertisements on June 7, so that they could be published on June 8.
Five prominent dailies refused to print our ads. While they did not give any official reason, internal discussions with those in charge of advertisements revealed that if they were to print the ads, they would face trouble from the government. I want to bring to your notice that the government has begun exerting pressure on the fourth pillar of democracy, so much so that an opposition party cannot even spend money and raise their issues," Chhattisgarh Congress president Bhupesh Baghel wrote in his letter to the PCI chairperson.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Baghel said, "We wanted to publish advertisements regarding issues of corruption against this government. However, on Wednesday, one after the other, the five papers pulled out. Only one newspaper published the advertisement. When we tried to approach the newspapers, they said they could not publish the ads or they would face pressure from the government."
A government official denied the allegations as baseless. "This is not something that the government gets into at all.... We were not aware of any Congress advertisements, and the newspapers may have taken the decision on their own. We had no part in it," a senior official said.