Row over ‘cash gifts’ from Karnataka CMO to journalists

Special envelopes with Rs 1 lakh in cash allegedly sent on Diwali

Chief Minister of karnataka Basavaraj Bommai (Photo: HansIndia)

A major controversy has erupted in Karnataka over an alleged cash dole-out of Rs 1 lakh from the chief minister Basavaraj Bommai’s office to select journalists on Diwali, with the opposition launching a scathing attack on the government and an anti-corruption NGO filing a complaint.

Generally, the CM office sends a box of sweets or dry fruits as a token during the festival. But this time, a special envelope with Rs 1 lakh in cash allegedly landed with some select journalists who covered politics, media reports said.

The News Minute reported that Deepawali hampers ranging from Rs 1 lakh to 3 lakh were sent. Three journalists confirmed to the website that cash was distributed, and said they had given it back to the CM’s office, the website said.

The cash gifts drew sharp reactions from journalists, some of whom wrote to the CM office. Some media reports quoted CMO sources as saying that Bommai was unaware of the development and later apologized to the editors.

The move snowballed into a row with the Janaadhikaara Sangharsha Parishath (JSP), an anti-corruption NGO, filing a complaint with the Lokayukta. The JSP sought a criminal case against the chief minister and his media coordinator.

In a letter addressed to the Karnataka Lokayukta, JSP co-president Adarsh Iyer said the cash as Diwali gifts amounted to serious allegations of bribery to hush up various allegations being published and broadcast against the government.

Raking up the issue, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) sought a detailed inquiry into the matter. “What is the source of the money? How many bribes have been paid? How many received bribes? How many (journalists) returned?” the state Congress unit tweeted.

Senior Congress leader and Karnataka in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Enforcement Directorate and the income tax department should take note of the matter.

He tweeted, “The #40PercentSarkar seeks to bribe the journalists with ? 1 Lakh cash! Will Mr. Bommai answer- 1. Isn’t it a “bribe” being offered by the CM? 2. What is the source of ?1,00,000? Has it come from Public Exchequer or from the CM himself? 3. Will ED/IT take note?”.

The Karnataka BJP countered the allegations. “The Congress has been shooting in the dark and making false accusations. The Congress seems to have forgotten that their leader DK Shivakumar had given away iPhones which became big news across the state.”

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