“PayCM”, “40% Accepted Here”, “Scan this QR Code to make the CM PAY for corruption” — these were the words on posters plastered across bus shelters, compound walls, underpasses, and air vents in various parts of Bengaluru on Wednesday morning. With Bommai’s image in the centre, the QR code posters were the Karnataka Congress’s latest salvo in the corruption allegations campaign against the Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Karnataka.
Within hours after the posters made it to news headlines — embarrassing the BJP government — BBMP and police officials were seen taking them down.
In the wee hours of Thursday, Congress worker attached to the communications department and IT cell were arrested by Bengaluru police in connection with the PayCM campaign.
QR Code poster
If you scan a QR code on UPI payment platforms like PayTM or GPay, you get to a transaction page. But scanning the QR code posters put up by the Karnataka Congress in Bengaluru would take the user to a website launched by the party to highlight allegations of corruption against the Bommai government.
A message on the poster reads ‘40% accepted here’ and asks the reader to scan this QR code to make the ‘CM pay’ for corruption. Accompanied is a toll-free phone number — 844-770-40-40 — set up by the Congress to ‘register complaints of corruption’.
The website www.40percentsarkara.com is where one would land after scanning the QR code. The Congress says citizens can submit their complaints here against the government.
Since the launch of this aggressive campaign by the Congress and particularly the launch of this website, the party claims to have registered nearly 1.2 lakh complaints and counting on its portal. Ringing the toll-free number ends as a missed call. But a call back as well as a follow-up SMS are sent via IVR to the complainant’s number.
The website appeals to members of the public to act now and claims to highlight the largescale scams of the BJP government. The home page features among others a Bitcoin scam, PSI scam, and a road scam involving the death of a contractor who died by suicide after naming senior BJP minister KS Eshwarappa in his death note as the reason for him taking the extreme step.
Paying BJP back in own coin
On Wednesday, posters of “PayCM” were around everywhere, especially in the Jayamahal area, a stone’s throw away from the house of Opposition leader Siddaramaiah.
Senior Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy told South First, “Until 2008, all the political parties used to blame each other over legitimate scams they were involved with whenever they won or lost elections. But ever since the BJP has come into power, it has only spread false news and misrepresented issues, especially using social media. Everyone knows that action and reaction will always be equal and opposite. Now the BJP is hiding its face after the PayCM campaign highlighting the 40% commission its government takes as bribes.”
“It’s only in the BJP’s government that the grants would not go to any other parties or even the opposition. They (BJP) are not coming out of it and still deflect and divert the attention of the public, spreading communal hate campaigns and giving out statements against Gandhi, Nehru, etc.,” Ramalinga Reddy added.
Posters irk Basavaraj Bommai
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, reacting to the PayCM campaign, said it was a “conspiracy to tarnish his and the state’s reputation”.
Bommai said he has ordered officials to register a case and investigate the matter. “Even we know how to do such baseless campaigns on social media. But people know it is not true. It means nothing. The government will make efforts to put an end to any attempts made to tarnish the image of Karnataka,” Bommai told reporters on Wednesday evening. Soon after the news spread, civic authority officials removed the posters and have taken up cases of defacement of public places.
It is based on accusations by the government contractors association alleging that no works are being sanctioned unless 40 percent of the total worth of a project is paid as a bribe.
In July 2021, the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association had written to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) about the rampant corruption existing in Karnataka over offering civil contracts to contractors. The letter said that contractors were harassed and forced to pay a 40% commission in total to the MLAs and other officials in the BJP government and departments related to the projects.
While the Congress is taking the fight to the streets, the legislature party led by Siddaramaiah is cornering the Bommai government over corruption allegations in the Assembly as well.
On Wednesday, Opposition leader Siddaramaiah tried to move an adjournment motion over the 40% commission allegation twice. The furore in the Assembly by the Opposition over corruption allegations against the ruling party went to the extent that the BJP accused the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association of ties with the Congress.
In response to the demand of the grand old party for a debate on corruption claims, BJP MLAs too have issued notices to rake up allegations of scams during the Congress regime in Karnataka.
The BJP also questioned the meetings held by association members with Congress leaders like Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar. Earlier, the BJP had called the Congress that was in power a ‘10% commission government’.