The Hamro Party on Friday released a clip of a telephone conversation, which contained an alleged bribe offer made to a woman councillor of the HP at Darjeeling municipality for her defection to the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM).
The caller who made the bribe offer was alleged to be Dipen Thakuri, one of the five HP councillors who had switched over to the BGPM on Thursday.
While Thakuri couldn’t be contacted for his reaction, the BGPM said the voice didn’t sound like that of the councillor.
Thakuri and four other HP councillors had joined the BGPM on Thursday, threatening the civic board controlled by the HP that was launched by restauranteur and philanthropist Ajoy Edwards almost a year ago.
“The audio which has gone viral exposes the character of their party (BGPM),” said Dipu Thapa, a central committee member of the HP. Edwards had termed Thakuri as the “ring leader” of the defectors.
In the clip, a voice resembling that of Thakuri is heard telling a woman that they are set to form the new board at Darjeeling municipality with six defectors and she will be valued if she joins on Wednesday, a day before the defection of the five.
“If you come on Friday it will be nothing (valueless),” said the voice.
The speaker continues: “We want you as you are very young, may you have money, let your career flourish...”
When the pur por ted woman councillor at the other end of the call expresses her inability to meet the rebels because of her daughter’s examination, the caller says things will be different in the new board unlike the present one and urges her to think about her daughter.
The five defectors are apparently camping in Siliguri and want the woman councillor to go down to Darjeeling More in the city. “Come quietly, don’t talk to people much, carry a small bag, few clothes, toothpaste and your makeup set; we will buy you the clothes if you need,” the caller is heard saying.
When the woman agrees to travel to Siliguri, the caller at the other end says: “Well done, all the best; we will receive your money and keep it here.”
There was no woman councillor among the five who defected to the BGPM on Thursday.
Thakuri could not be immediately contacted. The caller had used a “communication number, which is not to be shared” and it was not reachable on Friday.
The HP had been alleging that the BGPM was trying to bribe its councillors to topple the civic board.
Questioning the genuineness of the audio clip, BGPM general secretary Amar Lama said: “The voice does not sound like that of Dipen. Anything can be doctored these days. The audio clip is not tenable in the court unless a forensic result proves it.”
Lama is a lawyer by profession.
In the evening, the HP filed a complaint at Darjeeling police station against Thakuri.
On Friday, it was revealed that Edwards was paying Rs 7,000 a month to each of the 18 councillors who had been elected to the municipality as the party’s candidates because their salaries were low.
“It was a small gesture to ensure they did not indulge in corruption. I was spending around Rs 1.5 lakh per month,” said Edwards, who added he was also sponsoring two vehicles to clear garbage from the town daily.
A municipal chairman is paid a monthly salary of Rs 5,500, while his/her deputy receives Rs 3,500. A member–incharge receives Rs 2,650, while a normal councillor ‘s salary is Rs 1,550.
Edwards said the HP would organise a public meeting in Darjeeling on Sunday to mark the foundation day of the party and more “evidence” of alleged horse trading would be disclosed on the occasion.