New Delhi : An FIR has been lodged on behalf of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee against a shoe manufacturer for allegedly putting out an advertisement featuring her picture without her permission.
The full page advertisement that claims that Mamata was wearing rubber slippers manufactured by Ajanta Company, was published in June 21 edition in Sambad Pratidin, a Kolkata based Bengali newspaper.
"Railways has lodged the FIR against Ajanta Company in the Parliament Street police station. It was published without the knowledge and permission of the Cabinet Minister," said a senior Railway Ministry official.
The complaint has been lodged on the minister's behalf by an official of Railways on June 22.
"She is very upset over it. The ad, it seems, has been put out for pecuniary gains by exploiting Mamata's image," the official said.
A Delhi Police spokesperson said the FIR is being transferred to Kolkata Police for further probe and action.
In the ad, Mamata Banerjee is shown modelling for a particular brand of rubber slippers (hawai chappals).
The full-page advertisement in a Bengali daily on Monday showed Banerjee walking in her now-famous rubber slippers. The name of the brand — Ajanta Hawai — is mentioned clearly along with the one-line caption in Bengali: “dridha padakshep (firm and bright footsteps).”
The Left parties have sought a clarification from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the matter and are also looking into the possibility of moving the Election Commission to examine if a breach of the law has taken place.
Trinamool Congress leaders say, “Didi had no knowledge” of it.
The railway ministry has ordered an inquiry, which will be conducted by Railway Board member-secretary Shivaji Rakshit.
The PMO, after being informed of the advertisement, sought further information from the railway ministry.
Said a West Bengal CPI leader: “If she accepted payment for the advertisement, then it falls under the purview of the office-of-profit law. We are looking into the matter.”
When it was pointed out that it was claimed that the picture was used without the minister's consent and that an FIR had been filed over this, the CPI leader said: “All these things could be an eyewash.”
Trinamul Congress leader, Partha Chatterjee, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, admitted to “hearing about it” though he too claimed not to have seen the ad. When told his party chief was being used as a model to promote a brand of hawai chappals, Mr Chatterjee exclaimed: “Goodness, the footwear company must have done it!”
Both the CPI(M) and the BJP have asked the Prime Minister to “clarify” how a minister was permitted to promote a private company's brand.
Said CPI(M) central committee member Nilotpal Basu: “The Prime Minister must clarify if it was right for a Union minister to promote the brand of a private company.” Dr Singh, he added, should also explain if he had given her permission to do this.
BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it was “morally inappropriate” for any Union minister “to appear in any advertisement of a private company,” and added: “It could be a serious matter if she accepted payment for this. The Prime Minister must issue a clarification.”
Naqvi went on to say: “UPA ministers seem to be busy doing everything except their work. Some are modelling, while others are busy with cricket.”