In a controversial move, the Andhra Pradesh government has gone in for an image correction at the taxpayers' expense.

On October 28, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy signed a Rs 8.15 crore deal with media conglomerate Times Group to enhance the 'image of the state and its leaders on the national stage'. A copy of this order has been accessed by Asianet Newsable.

The order issued by T Vijay Kumar Reddy, ex-officio Special Secretary to the Andhra government reads: 'Administrative sanction is hereby accorded to the Commissioner, Information & Public Relations, Andhra Pradesh, Vijayawada for an amount of Rs 8,15,00,000 as released in the G.O.2nd read above as additional funds in relaxation of treasury control and quarterly regulation orders pending provision of funds by obtaining supplementary grants at an appropriate time during the current financial year 2020-21 towards for adopting the concept proposed by the M/s Bannet Coleman and Company Ltd, Delhi to enhance the image of State and its leaders on the national stage by creating awareness on the policies and schemes through media group Times Network.'  

The order further notes 'The commissioner, Information & Public Relations, Andhra Pradesh, Vijayawada hereby authorized to draw the above amount as released in the G.O. 2nd read above to meet the expenditure for adopting the concept proposed by the M/s Bannet Coleman and Company Ltd, Delhi to enhance the image of State and its leaders on the national stage by creating awareness on the policies and schemes through media group Times Network."

The order has drawn criticism from the opposition. Some have questioned whether a cash-strapped state can afford such a PR stunt.

The Jagan Mohan Reddy government has been been facing flak ever since principal adviser Ajeya Kallam reportedly distributed copies of the chief minister's controversial letter to Chief Justice of India Justice S A Bobde. In his letter, Jagan accused Justice N V Ramana, the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, and a few judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court of abetting corruption and hindering administration. This prompted the High Court to call for a CBI probe into the defamatory posts against judges and judiciary on social media put up by members of the ruling YSR Congress.

The state government had also come under flak after allegations emerged that it wanted to use Tirumala Lord Venkateswara's wealth to fulfil the promises that it made to the people of the state. The proposal saw the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam shifting temple funds into the Andhra government's securities from scheduled nationalised banks.