The opposition BJP on Thursday hit out at the Maharashtra government for its decision to allocate nearly Rs six crore for appointing a private agency to handle the social media accounts of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar amid the raging COVID-19 crisis.
Under fire over the decision, Ajit Pawar said there was no need to appoint any external agency to handle the social media of his office and issued instructions to cancel the government order in this regard.
The General Administration Department of the state government had issued an order on Wednesday for the appointment of an external agency to disseminate information to people through various social media platforms about the public-oriented decisions, initiatives, policies and also the announcements made by the deputy chief minister.
The government had pegged the expenses at Rs 5.98 crore for 2021-22.
Criticising the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar sought cancellation of this decision meant for the 'public relations exercise of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Ajit Pawar'.
'There are news reports that crores of rupees will be spent on their public relations exercise. Such expenditure should be cancelled and there should be a thorough probe into the matter,' Bhatkhalkar said a video message.
The BJP leader took a dig at NCP chief Sharad Pawar without naming him.
'After his medical treatment, the uncle (Sharad Pawar) of deputy chief minster has written a letter to chief minister, expressing his concerns over the restaurants and bar operators, instead of taking the side of farmers. The state government cites fund crunch when it comes to paying to doctors and nurses, but has money to hire a PR agency. It is a highly shameless behaviour,' he added.
Hitting back at the BJP over the issue, state minister Nawab Malik said those who are pointing finger towards the alleged Rs 6 crore expenses, should pay attention towards the amount spent on public relations activities of the chief minister and ministers in the previous government.
He was referring to former Maharashtra Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis and the ministers in his council.
'It is required to disseminate information to the people while working in the government. Those who are pointing finger (towards the said Rs 6 crore expense) should pay attention towards how much money was spent on the chief minister and every minister in the previous government.
'The opposition should understand that the amount (of Rs 6 crore) is not more than what is spent by the Centre on public relation activities,' Malik added.
Meanwhile, Ajit Pawar's office issued a statement over the issue.
'There is absolutely no need to appoint an external agency for handling social media of the deputy chief ministers office. The government decision in this regard should be cancelled immediately,' Pawar said in the statement.
He also said that there is no question of appointing a separate agency to handle social media of his office when the government's Directorate General of Information and Public Relations can carry out that work.
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