The Congress in Karnataka on Saturday asked the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government to respond to allegations that an official from the Karnataka chief minister’s office gave cash gifts to journalists on Diwali.

On Friday, two journalists had told The News Minute that they received hampers with cash but returned them. One of them said that the hamper contained Rs 1 lakh in cash. A third journalist said that he knew that hampers had been distributed to some mediapersons.

The Congress, in a series of tweets in Kannada, asked the Karnataka government what the source of the money was, according to NDTV.

“Was the bribe given by misusing taxpayers’ money?” the party asked. “...How much bribe was paid and what have you received in return? We have not called Chief Minister [Basavaraj] Bommai ‘PayCM’ for no reason.”

This was in reference to allegations levelled by the Congress in September that contractors had to pay 40% commission to get contracts to carry out public works. The Congress had put up posters saying “PayCM” that showed Bommai’s face in the middle of a QR code with the message “40% accepted here”. The term was a play on the electronic wallet service PayTM.

On Saturday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala congratulated the “courageous scribes of Karnataka who exposed the BribeGate of CM Bommai and his CMO”.

Meanwhile, an anti-corruption activist group, Janadhikara Sangharsha Parishat, filed a complaint with the Karnataka Lokayukta police seeking an investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act, The Indian Express reported.

“We are aware of a serious issue of bribes being distributed to chief reporters of several media houses by the chief minister of Karnataka through his media coordinator,” the organisation said in the complaint.

The group also said that such an act “amounts to unethical, immoral usage of money by the CM of Karnataka so as to unduly influence the media to work in his government’s favour”.

The chief minister’s office has not yet commented on the allegations.

However, the BJP said that the Congress was making false accusations against Bommai, reported News18.

“The Congress has been shooting in the dark and making false accusations,” it said. “The Congress seems to have forgotten that their leader DK Shivakumar had given away iPhones which became big news across the state.”

Shivakumar, when he was in the irrigation minister in HD Kumaraswamy government in 2018, had given iPhones to Karnataka MPs. He had defended the gift saying parliamentarians needed phones to access and upload data online.