Cash gift to journalists: ‘Not me’ says Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai with a dash of whataboutery

Basavaraj Bommai accused the Congress of 'lies' even as he insisted that he didn't instruct anyone to give cash gifts to journalists.

ByAnusha Ravi Sood

Published Oct 30, 2022 | 12:35 PMUpdatedOct 30, 2022 | 12:35 PM

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai with Union Minister Amit Shah. (Supplied)

Two days after South First reported on the Karnataka Chief Minister’s Office sending cash gifts to journalists in Deepavali hampers, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai broke his silence on the matter on Sunday, 30 October.

Responding to questions by reporters, Bommai said he did not give anyone any instruction to give cash gifts. While Bommai accused the Congress of lying over the matter and deemed the allegation a result of “Congress toolkit”, he did not explicitly deny the charge, maintaining only that the instructions didn’t come from him.

“I have definitely not instructed anyone. When Congress was in power, they too had gifted iPhones, laptops and even gold coins. What moral authority do they have to comment now?” Bommai asked with a touch of whataboutery.

Bommai’s response to the controversy came after a Lokayukta complaint was filed in the matter and Congress demanded a judicial inquiry.

Journalists who received the sweet boxes told South First that an envelope with ₹1 lakh accompanied them.

Congress charge

In a press conference on Saturday, AICC General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala had listed out allegations of corruption against the BJP government in Karnataka and had demanded Bommai’s resignation.

“Chief Minister himself trying to bribe journalists fraternity across the state. Simple question is: Where did this money come from Mr Bommai? Was this ₹1 lakh withdrawn from public exchequer or has it come from your personal kitty. If CM himself is guilty of bribery, who will protect the state?” Surjewala asked, adding that Bommai had been caught red-handed.

Bommai, while giving himself a clean chit in the matter, also deflected questions on whether he would order an inquiry into the matter.

“Someone has complained to Lokayukta. Let the Lokayukta investigate. It doesn’t mean all journalists have taken that gift. I condemn Congress’ insinuation. I haven’t given any instructions to anyone. It has gone to the Lokayukta, which is a police agency. Let the investigation report come,” Bommai said.

Minister Sudhakar’s ‘Hindu’ shield for liquor hamper

Even as the CMO has come under severe criticism over the cash gift, Karnataka’s Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar played the “Hindu” card to counter Congress.

The Karnataka Congress twitter handle on Saturday shared a photo of a hamper visibly containing an expensive liquor bottle allegedly from Health Minister Sudhakar.

Congress alleged that the health minister’s gift hamper included a watch and gold coin as well. South First couldn’t independently verify the contents of the hamper or whether it was meant for journalists. Sources in Sudhakar’s office, however, confirmed that the hamper was put together on behalf of the minister.

While Sudhakar did not deny that the hamper was his gift, he went on the offensive, saying the Congress “anti-Hindu” for raising a stink over Deepavali gifts.

“The excitement Congress has for Iftaar and Christmas (it doesn’t have for) Hindu festivals. Why do you blame our culture and tradition because of the hate you have towards Hindu religion? It is our tradition to share sweets, happiness with each other during festivals. Exchanging sweets is a long-standing tradition during Deepavali,” Sudhakar said in a series of tweets, repeatedly accusing the Congress of being “anti-Hindu”.

While Sudhakar’s anti-Hindu charge against the Congress received support from his followers, many questioned the “Hinduness” of the bottle of scotch whisky in the hamper.