The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday denied the allegations levelled by journalists of the Leh Press Club that the party had tried to bribe them.
Addressing a press conference here, Vikram Randhawa, the BJP leader who has been accused of distributing envelopes containing cash to journalists at a hotel in Leh on May 2, said, “If they (journalists) had discovered cash in the envelopes distributed among them, why did they stay back for the lavish lunch at the hotel which cost the BJP Rs 11,000.”
The BJP leader further said, “All the allegations levelled by the journalists in Leh are baseless and misleading. They were supported by the Congress and other anti-BJP elements in Kashmir to malign the image of the BJP.
“The CCTV footage being circulated on social media shows invitation envelopes being given to the reporters for covering Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to Leh on May 4. But it was shown as if money was being given to them.”
Randhawa added that some of the journalists returned the envelopes, saying they did not need a separate invitation as they already intended to cover the event.
Meanwhile, reacting to the allegations levelled by the journalists, former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah demanded criminal proceedings against the BJP leaders.
Posting the two-page letter sent by the journalists to the District Election Officer (DEO) on his Twitter handle, Abdullah said, “In light of the CCTV footage purported to show BJP leaders attempting to bribe journalists in Leh, I’m retweeting my original tweet with the letter of complaint by the Press Club of Leh. Action must follow.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Rinchen Angmo, a journalist in Leh, said that envelopes were distributed among mediapersons belonging to the Leh Press Club at a hotel where state BJP chief Ravinder Raina addressed a press conference on May 2.
“We were told not to open the envelopes in the hall and that made me suspicious. After I opened the envelope, I was shocked to find Rs 500 bills inside,” Angmo said.
She added that the envelopes were distributed by BJP leader Vikram Randhawa in the presence of Raina. When she tried to return the envelope, the BJP leader refused to take it back, Angmo said.
She said a complaint has been lodged in this regard with the DEO and the police.
Leh DEO Avny Lavasa told reporters that the complaint has been sent to the police who have approached the court for directions to file an FIR based on the complaint.
The allegations by the journalists were supported by a video clip that has gone viral. It shows envelopes being distributed among the journalists at Hotel Singge Palace in Leh.
Denying the allegations, the BJP said it will file a defamation suit against the journalists.
“We will not tolerate such allegations. We will file a defamation suit against Leh Press Club in the high court if it fails to tender a public apology,” Raina said.
The Ladakh parliamentary constituency went to the polls on May 6. It saw a four-cornered contest between Jamyang Tsering Namgyal of the BJP, Congress’ Rigzin Spalbar and two Independents, Haji Asgar Ali Karbalai and Sajjad Hussain.