'As a responsible journalist, I want to be on the side of truth.'
'I have highlighted this issue openly and it is up to the Election Commission district officer on what action they want to take.'
The Bharatiya Janata Party has been caught on the backfoot after the Leh Press Club complained to the Election commission of India, stating that BJP leaders tried to bribe journalists after a press conference by giving them a bundle of cash.
A video of the purported incident is also in circulation on social media, as the entire episode was captured on CCTV.
"On May 2, there was a press conference by the BJP and as soon as it was over, Vikram Randhawa, a BJP MLC, gave four journalists an envelope. I asked him what was in the envelope and he said, 'Don't open it now'," Rinchen Angmo, editor of the Reach Ladakh and one of the journalists who was given a bundle of cash, tells Rediff.com.
Angmo got suspicious as it was a thick envelope.
"As soon as I opened the envelope I saw there was a bundle of Rs 500 notes in it, so I immediately refused to take it and returned it to him. However, Randhawa refused to take it back," says Angmo.
She then left the envelope on the table and walked out.
Asked if she was asked to write favourable articles on the BJP in exchange, Angmo says, "Now it is common sense why they would want to bribe journalists during elections. There is a Model Code of Conduct on. And he gave the envelope stating it was a 'token of love'. What does this mean? It is a violation of the MCC."
When this correspondent pointed out that the BJP denies the episode, Angmo says, "Now they may deny this entire incident, but you know how these politicians are when they get caught. I have only stated what the truth is."
"As a responsible journalist, I want to be on the side of truth. I have highlighted this issue openly and it is up to the Election Commission district officer on what action they want to take."
"I don't want to comment further," Angmo adds, "as everything can be seen on CCTV."
Leh is part of the Ladakh constituency in Jammu and Kashmir and Jamyang Tsering Namgyal is the BJP candidate. The constituency went to the polls on May 6.
Morup Stanzin, president of the Leh Press Club, says, "We want an inquiry, it must be conducted. It is a very wrong culture being supported in Leh."
BJP MLC Randhawa showed mediapersons in Jammu an invitation to a public meeting by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman that was given to journalists, which he said was all that happened.
Asked about the CCTV footage showing journalist Angmo returning the bundle of cash envelope to him which he refuses to accept, after which she put it back on the table, Randhawa said, 'She only returned the invitation, and there was no bundle of cash in the envelope. She said she was going to cover the rally anyway, so why did she need another special invitation?'
'If there was cash in the envelope,' Randhawa added, 'then she should have exposed it in her own mobile camera right there. Why didn't she do it right away and expose us? Moreover, the same journalists came out and had lunch with us too at that time. So will you not call that lunch as a bribe too?'
'They came out with all these details the next day, on May 3,' Randhawa said. 'If they had to capture this bribe video they should have captured it on their own mobile camera. Why did they waited for one more day to get the CCTV footage and then come out with their expose?'