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'Congress Toolkit’: Karnataka CM Bommai on ‘Sweet-Cash-Boxes’ to Journalists

What's the controversy? What has the Congress alleged? Here's what we know.

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While sweets may be the appropriate gifts shared during Diwali, journalists in Karnataka received ‘sweet box’ hampers from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) with something extra - Money, between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakhs! 

Already fighting a barrage of corruption charges, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, has denied his involvement in the case. Instead, he blames the controversy on the Congress’ ‘toolkit’.

Meanwhile, an NGO named Janaadhikara Sangharsha Parishat filed a complaint with the Lokayukta, seeking an investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

What's the controversy? What has the Congress alleged? Here's what we know.

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Did CM Bommai Really Deny the Charges?

On Sunday, 30 October, CM Bommai said, “I did not instruct any of my employees to give such gifts to journalists. This is the result of Congress’ toolkit. When Congress was in power, they gave gifts such as iPhones and laptops to many journalists, the media had exposed it back then as well. The matter had reached Lokayukta back then too.”

Speaking on CM Bommai’s ‘denial’ of cash being used to allegedly bribe journalists in the state, RTI activist and a part of the complainant NGO, Adarsh Iyer told The Quint:

“It is not exactly a denial. They have said that the opposition had done this earlier. This is not a denial, but an admission of guilt.”

“The CM said he is not involved in it. But then why would his media coordinator pay huge sums of money to chief reporters? And what is the source of this money? There’s not just the corruption angle, but even the benami angle comes into picture. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has to investigate this and the source of these funds,” Iyer added.

Further, on being asked about Bommai’s charge against the Congress, claiming it to be a part of their ‘toolkit’, Iyer said, “This statement does not suit a person of the CM's stature. He is not just a politician from a party but the CM of Karnataka. If you see our organisation’s track record, we have brought out two scams by the Congress as well. Mr Bommai must be more responsible and give a better reply. If he can’t, he should resign.” 

Three journalists confirmed to The News Minute that hampers with cash were distributed. Two of them confirmed that they had given it back to the CM’s office.

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What has the Congress Said?

After the allegations surfaced, Karnataka Congress said in a tweet, “It is known that a journalist has upheld journalism by returning a Rs 2.5 lakh bribe given by the Chief Minister’s office. This incident is proof that Karnataka journalists will not allow the sanctity of journalism to be threatened. The CM must answer why journalists were given a bribe.”

Speaking to The Quint, Congress spokesperson Aiyshwarya Mahadev said, “Members of the journalistic fraternity spoke about this, and took massive offence to this exercise. Mr Bommai is either ignorant intentionally or is completely uninformed of this reality. Because if he is calling it a part of the Congress toolkit then he is the one who looks like he’s been played for a fool. We only highlighted that this had happened.”

She added:

“Of course, this was done with an eye on elections. Look at the trend of news today – infrastructure collapse in Bengaluru, everyone talking about a '40 percent commission' government. This may have been a ploy to silence the journalists. But more power to them who have stood up and highlighted this.”

“The bigger responsibility is for the government to come out and clearly tell us why there was money in the boxes. They can’t just wish it away. The CM offering a denial is an insult to the journalists,” she added.

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What Now?

On Sunday, CM Bommai said, “The matter has gone to the Lokayukta. Let the investigation take place, we will eventually find out what happened.”

The complaint has been filed against the Chief Minister’s media advisor, Shankar Pagoji, through whom the alleged bribe was sent from the CMO.

It is unclear how many such hampers were distributed, and how many journalists returned it.

While sweets during Diwali might be distributed as a courtesy, money being included like this is a first, Mahadev added.

It remains to be seen what the investigation by the Lokayukta reveals.

(With inputs from The News Minute.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  BJP   Congress   KARNATAKA 

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