The Bharatiya Janata Party has threatened to file a defamation case against the press club in Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh town for alleging that the party had offered the press organisation bribe in return for favourable coverage during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The BJP has denied the allegations and demanded an apology from the press club.

The saffron party’s statement was issued on Sunday, a day before polling was held in parts of Jammu and Kashmir for the Lok Sabha elections. The party was responding to the press body’s complaint, filed last week, that its leaders, including state President Ravinder Raina, had tried to bribe journalists on Thursday at Hotel Singge Palace in Leh. In the complaint letter, the press organisation accused the BJP of violating the Model Code of Conduct and demanded action against its members.

“After the press conference was over, BJP leaders, including state president Ravinder Raina and member of legislative council Vikram Randhawa, tried to bribe the reporters by offering money in envelopes in an attempt to use our platform to influence the outcome of elections,” the press club said in complaint, according to NDTV. “We did not accept the offer and we were anguished at such an attempt.”

The press club said in a Facebook post on Saturday that the BJP had tried to “belittle the dignity of media of Leh by offering them cash”. “We, the media of Leh, are objective in our outlook and we perform our duties as the watchdog of the society,” the organisation wrote. “Our aim was to bring this incident into the notice of the respected officers associated with the elections who are trying to conduct this election peacefully without any violation of the Model Code of Conduct...Now, it is the duty of the concerned officers to take the matter forward.”

In his letter to the press club’s president, Raina said the allegations were “totally false, baseless, without any evidence and seems politically motivated”. “I seek written apology from the Press Club Leh within next 48 hours for the false propaganda,” Raina wrote, adding he will file a defamation case against the organisation if it does not apologise. Raina said he would also file a case under Section 66A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008.

The BJP's letter to the Press Club, Leh, demanding an apology for the allegations.
The BJP's letter to the Press Club, Leh, demanding an apology for the allegations.