According to information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Punjab government spent Rs 14.63 lakh on the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) victory march, Dhanwad Punjab Yatra, in Amritsar on 13th March 2022. On 10th March 2022, the results of the Punjab assembly elections were declared in which the Aam Aadmi Party won 92 out of 117 seats in the state assembly and formed a government, following which the victory march was taken out by the party.
The expenses of the victory march include the costs born for honouring senior AAP leaders with gold-plated swords and arranging their accommodation in five-star hotels and decorating roads with flowers. Manik Goyal, an RTI activist, had filed the plea for details on the event’s expenses. The grand road show was headed by AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and CM-elect Bhagwant Mann. According to the RTI response, the Amritsar district administration received a total of 19 bills for the party’s victory march and paid Rs 14,63,129.
The RTI response revealed that The Taj Swarna, a five-star hotel, received a payment of 1,51,851 from the Amritsar district administration to cover four invoices. Besides, the district administration spent Rs 4,83,800 to decorate roadways with fresh flowers, Rs 75,000 to prepare the welcome gate, Rs 5,56,424 to arrange tents and chairs, Rs 54,500 on drummers, Rs 16,800 to purchase rose bouquets, Rs 18,000 to purchase phulkaris, Rs 34,000 to purchase four gold-plated swords, Rs 45,398 to install flex boards, Rs 17,500 to videographers and photographers, and Rs 9,856 to confectionary arrangements. All the expenses are done before Bhagwant Mann assumed the charges as the chief minister of the state.
Manik Goyal said that Bhagwant Mann was voted leader of the parliamentary party by newly elected MLAs on March 11, but he had yet to take the oath of office as chief minister when the AAP delved into the state exchequer to utilize cash for the party’s celebration rally. At the swearing-in event on March 16 at Khatkar Kalan in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district, Mann took the oath of office and confidentiality.
Mayank Goyal also informed that people were transported to Amritsar for the victory march using government buses, but the district administration did not respond to a question about the costs associated with their conveyance. Harpreet Singh Sudan, the deputy commissioner of Amritsar, declined to comment on the costs associated with the road show on March 13. He said, “I joined here in April and, therefore, I can’t comment on why and how this payment was made. It is the government’s prerogative to decide how, why, and where to pay. The authorities act on the government’s directions.”
Punjab’s finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema said that he will immediately look into this matter. Malvinder Singh Kang, the state’s top AAP spokesperson, was vague over the RTI response, nevertheless. He said, “I don’t know the authenticity of this information.”
It is notable that due to growing debt, slow development, and a load of freebies, Punjab’s economy has been in terrible circumstances for years. Ironically, the AAP government portrayed a bleak image of the state finances in a white paper it submitted to the assembly on June 25 and attributed the financial crisis to past administrations’ excessive spending and poor management.