In a classic case of misplaced priorities of the Maharashtra government, it had earmarked nearly Rs 6 crore for the handling of social media accounts of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. However, the state government of the Shiv Sena, NCP and INC cancelled the order after facing backlash and opposition attacks.
As per the order issued on 12 May, an external agency was to be appointed for the handling of social media accounts of NCP leader Ajit Pawar.
The agency was to be tasked to ensure that the common people are informed of the decisions taken by Ajit Pawar, who holds the finance and planning portfolio.
The order for appointing an external agency and allotting it a budget of Rs 5.98 crores was issued by RN Musale, under-secretary at the General Administration Department for the year 2021-22.
BJP MLA, Ram Kadam criticised the move and said, “People have died in the pandemic due to the negligence of the Maharashtra government. On one hand, the government is saying that they don’t have enough money to purchase vaccines and on the other hand, to pat their backs on social media a team is hired for the deputy chief minister at a budget of Rs 6 crore.”
He said, “If this budget is for one minister, what is the budget for all the ministers? During the pandemic, new vehicles were purchased and houses of ministers were renovated on government expense. Ministers should pay for social media from their own pockets.”
The order mentioned that DGIPR lacks professional and technical competence to deal with social media and hence an external agency is being hired. Maharashtra’s DGIPR department has a staff of nearly 1,200 and with an annual budget of Rs 150 crore.
As per the order, the external agency was to handle Ajit Pawar’s Twitter, Facebook, blogger, YouTube and Instagram accounts. The order mentioned the handling of Soundcloud, a WhatsApp bulletin, Telegram channel and SMS.
The agency was to be appointed in consultation with the deputy chief minister, secretariat and directorate general of information and public relations.
The agency will be selected from among those which are already on the panel of DGIPR. The order also said that it will be ensured that there will be no duplication of messages generated from the CMO and DCM office. The CMO had already appointed an external agency in July 2020 for the handling of its social media accounts.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar later cancelled the decision to appoint an external agency to manage his social media accounts.
“There is no need to appoint an external agency to handle the social media of the Deputy Chief Minister’s Office, the order in this regard should be cancelled immediately,” Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has instructed.
In a statement, it was further said that the Deputy Chief Minister’s Office does not feel the need to work independently on social media.