‘PayCM’ posters with QR codes spring up in Bengaluru, Bommai hits back at Congress

Seeking to make corruption its central plank against the BJP government in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections, slated for May 2023, the principal Opposition Congress has launched a series of publicity campaigns targeted at the saffron dispensation over the last week.

On Wednesday, posters with QR codes and pictures of Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai stating “PayCM” sprung up across Bengaluru, drawing the CM’s ire. Last week, during Bommai’s visit to Telangana, banners had reportedly appeared in Hyderabad that said, “Welcome to 40 per cent commission CM”.

In Karnataka, the Congress has been targeting the BJP with allegations of corruption by quoting allegations made by the Karnataka Contractors Association in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2021, which stated that the demand for bribes in the state had risen from 10 per cent to 40 per cent under the BJP government.

Bommai slammed the Congress’s attempts to paint him and the BJP with corruption charges, rejecting them as “baseless”. He called the Congress’s campaign a bid to tarnish the image of Karnataka.

“This is a systematic campaign to not only tarnish the state’s image but also of my image. Instructions have been given to the authorities concerned to immediately book a case,” Bommai said on the “PayCM” campaign posters surfacing in Bengaluru. “Even we know how to do such baseless campaigns on social media. People know it is a big lie. There is no value for it. The government will make efforts to put an end to any attempts to tarnish the image of Karnataka,” he said.

‘PayCM’ posters at a bus stand in Bengaluru. (Express photo)

On September 13, the Karnataka Congress kicked off a campaign to project the BJP government as allegedly one of the most corrupt governments that the state has ever seen. The party’s corruption campaign is seen as a counter to the BJP’s alleged attempts to rake up polarising and communal issues ahead of the state polls.

The main slogan in the Karnataka Congress’s campaign is: “40% Sarkara, BJP means Brashtachara”. Last week state Congress chief D K Shivakumar and Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah launched the “rate cards” detailing the commission allegedly sought by the government functionaries in various sectors. It charged that the going rates for bribes for Covid-19 supplies were 75%, PWD contracts 40%, Mutt grants 40%, and egg supplies 30%.

The Congress also launched a helpline number and a website, where people can register complaints of corruption against the state government with evidence. Shivakumar, who has himself been facing various cases of alleged corruption being probed by the CBI and the ED, said that the names and details of complainants will be protected and that the party would present the complaints before respective departments and agencies to initiate probes.

He also said the Congress’s workers and district leaders will take the corruption plank against the BJP government to the grassroots level and create awareness among the voters on the issue.

Shivakumar and Siddaramiah accused several BJP leaders, including CM Bommai, health minister K Sudhakar, higher education and IT/BT minister C N Ashwath Narayan and saffron party leader K S Eshwarappa for their alleged involvement in various scams including those relating to tenders, Covid, PSI recruitment, sex for job, egg supplies, Bitcoin and Raghavendra Bank, among others.

“Bengaluru which was once called the silicon city, garden city, pensioner’s paradise, is now being termed as the corruption capital of India because of the BJP government. Is it really possible for the authorities to pull off the PSI scam without the involvement of a state minister?” Shivakumar asked.

He claimed that the government was welcome to conduct an investigation against him if it found any evidence of irregularities in power purchase during his tenure as the state power minister.

The Congress has also alleged that the BJP dispensation collected Rs 50-70 lakhs for appointing an assistant professor, Rs 30-50 lakhs for lecturers, Rs 1 crore-Rs 10 crore for vice chancellors, and Rs 1-16 crore for deputy commissioner and superintendents of police.

The BJP’s national general secretary C T Ravi has accused the Congress of creating a “toolkit” that is not backed by evidence to target the BJP government ahead of the polls.

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