Leh journalists level bribery charge at BJP leaders

Ladakh is witnessing a four-way contest

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar
  • Published 5.05.19, 7:27 AM
  • Updated 5.05.19, 7:46 PM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
The BJP had achieved its maiden victory in Ladakh in 2014, defeating the Congress candidate by a mere 36 votes. iStock photo

The Press Club in Leh has complained to the Election Commission that BJP leaders tried to bribe reporters for favourable coverage ahead of Monday’s Lok Sabha election in the Ladakh constituency.

The Press Club in Leh has lodged complaints with district election officer Anvy Lavasa as well as the police.

“Yes, I have (received a complaint). We are doing a summary inquiry and, if required, will file a police complaint,” Lavasa, who is Leh’s deputy commissioner, told The Telegraph.

“It is a non-cognisable offence and it (the FIR) has to be filed through a court.”

Ladakh is witnessing a four-way contest between the BJP’s Tsering Namgyal, who is chief executive councillor of the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council; Congress candidate Rigzin Saplbar; Independent Sajjad Hussain, who is supported by the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party; and Congress rebel Asgar Ali Karbalai.

Muslims enjoy a slender majority in Ladakh but both the Congress and the BJP have fielded Buddhist candidates. Karbalai is believed to be a proxy Congress candidate, tasked to divide the Mulsim vote which could otherwise have consolidated behind Hussain, a journalist turned politician.

The BJP had achieved its maiden victory in Ladakh in 2014, defeating the Congress candidate by a mere 36 votes.

Leh Press Club sources said the journalists' body has lodged a police complaint and said no action has been taken so far.

According to the police complaint, the incident happened on Thursday at hotel Singay Palace in Leh after state BJP president Ravinder Raina addressed a news conference.

“After the press conference was over, BJP leaders including state president Ravinder Raina and MLC Vikram Randhawa tried to bribe the media persons by offering us money in envelopes in an attempt to use our platform to influence the outcome of elections,” the complaint reads.

“We didn’t accept the offer and rejected it out rightly (sic) and we showed our anguish at their attempt.”

Rinchen Angmo, a member of the Press Club in Leh,  told this newspaper that a senior BJP leader had handed over envelopes to four journalists, including her, in front of Raina and the others present inside the hall. The leader urged them not to open the envelopes there, she said.

“I got suspicious and opened it. I found a lot of Rs 500 notes inside. I returned it to him but he refused, after which I put it (the envelope) on the table,” she said.

Sunil Sethi, chief spokesperson for the state BJP, denied the allegation. “We don’t believe in bribing anybody. We hold journalists in high esteem. The BJP has never done it and will never do it,” he said.

Angmo is one of seven signatories to the complaint. The others are Morup Stanzin, Tsering Rigzin, Tashi Landup, Stanzin Desal, Tsewang Paldan and Stanstrung Dorjey.