An FIR was registered against BJP leader and MLC Vikram Randhawa for allegedly trying to bribe journalists in Leh, officials said Thursday. However, Randhawa termed the allegations as baseless and said the Congress was trying to malign the image of the BJP. District Election Officer (DEO) and Deputy Commissioner of Leh Avny Lavasa told PTI that only Randhawa was named in the FIR. The case was registered under Section 171E (Punishment for bribery) and 171F (Punishment for undue influence or personation at an election) of the Ranbir Panel Code (RPC) warranting investigation, she said. The FIR was registered after the chief judicial magistrate of Leh directed police on Wednesday to launch a probe into the matter. Randhawa, who is the BJP's Ladakh in-charge, said, "All allegations of Leh journalists are baseless and misleading. It was supported by anti-BJP elements in Kashmir and the Congress to malign the image of the party."
On Saturday, the Press Club Leh had accused the BJP of trying to bribe its members by offering "envelopes filled with money" after a press conference. A two-page letter signed by several members of the Press Club was circulating on social media. A CCTV footage of the alleged incident also came to light. Randhawa, however, claimed that the envelopes contained invitations for reporters for the coverage of Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's visit to Leh on May 4. The MLC said some media persons opened the envelopes and returned them, saying they don't need special invitations as they were already covering the minister's visit. BJP's state unit chief Ravinder Raina supported a probe into the matter but also questioned the claim of journalists asking why was the money not shown in the CCTV footage.
"They should have shown the notes after opening the packets. They had camera too. The press conference was held on May 2 and they could have shown it on the same day. Only on May 4 it came out in social media as a planned conspiracy to defame the BJP," Raina said.