What is the similarity between the Bhupesh Baghel-led Congress government in Chhattisgarh and the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP dispensation in Uttar Pradesh? No, it’s not political freebies or policies but ‘poster boy’ Harnam Singh who features on hoardings of both states.
In what can be termed a faux pas by BJP, Singh — a farmer who hails from UP’s Lucknow — has become the talk of the town since his cut-out was displayed on UP government hoardings, three years after it was used by the Congress to highlight farmer welfare schemes on the occasion of the birth anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The Congress posters then also featured Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and were all over Twitter in 2020, highlighting the government’s schemes for farmers. It included the Rajiv Gandhi Nyay Yojana worth Rs 1,500 crore, Godhan Nyay Yojana worth Rs 4.5 crore, and Tendu Patta Sangrahan Protsahan Parishramik scheme worth Rs 233 crore.
Other than the chief minister, several Congress leaders shared posters bearing Harnam’s image on social media in 2020.
Cut to three years later, Singh’s pictures were seen once again on the banners of the UP government across prime locations in Lucknow. One such hoarding put up near Lucknow’s Gomti River Front area highlights PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, stating that an amount of Rs 60,845 crore has already been transferred to 2.63 crore farmers. Apart from Singh, the hoarding also bears the image of Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Singh, who is part of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, said he did not know when his picture was clicked and used in the Chhattisgarh government’s advertisement. In UP, he was informed of his new-found fame by those around him.
“I am happy that I have been featured in the government advertisement but a lot more needs to be done in order to make UP farmers self-reliant and prosperous,” said Singh.
Seeking to dismiss the goof-up, senior BJP leader Praveen Garg said: “It’s an error on the designer’s part. I believe the designer picked a farmer’s picture randomly from the internet and used it to design the hoarding.” Garg, however, noted the need to cross check advertisements before sending them for print in order to avoid such faux pas.
This is not the first time the UP government had to cut a sorry figure due to an advertorial goof-up. In 2021, an advertorial titled ‘Transforming Uttar Pradesh under UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’ carried a collage of images from Kolkata, including an image of the Maa flyover bridge, highlighting it as an achievement of the UP government.