Last Updated: September 26, 2023, 18:22 IST
A political controversy erupted in Maharashtra after the state’s BJP unit Chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule was caught telling party workers “to take journalists to tea shops and treat them well to avoid negative publicity ahead of the polls.” The BJP leader’s audio clip went viral on social media and sparked a political slugfest in no time.
According to PTI, Bawankule reportedly gave the alleged ‘instructions’ to his party workers in Ahmednagar while addressing a gathering on the management of poll booths.
In the audio clip, Bawankule was heard “Small-time video journalists running news portals and residing in your booth areas sometimes present a minor incident as if some blast has taken place”.
He further asked his workers to prepare a list of journalists whom he termed “nuisance-creating journalists” and invited for refreshments to persuade them not to write anything against BJP leaders.
“Prepare a list of such nuisance-creating journalists, including those from the electronic media or print, and invite them for a cup of tea to dhabas so that they would not write anything against us ahead of Maha Vijay 2024. You know what I mean by inviting them for a cup of tea,” PTI quoted Bawankule as saying.
“Take them to dhabas. Treat them well and ensure no negative news comes out against us. There should be positive news about us. Protect your booths first,” Bawankule added.
While Bawankule issued a clarification regarding his controversial remarks, the opposition parties have launched an all-out attack on BJP alleging that the saffron party was trying to manage the media through its tactics.
In his defence, Bawankule said that he meant that journalists are so important that they can even change the opinion of the people.
“Journalists are also voters and why should there be a bias against them? It is not good if you do not meet them, talk to them or seek their opinion. I gave this kind of advice to them (BJP workers),” Bawankule told reporters.
Slamming the state BJP unit, Maharashtra opposition leader Vijay Wadettiwar warned Bawankule that not all journalists are sold out so their ploy wouldn’t work.
“Not all journalists are sold out. Do you think journalists accept crumbs? I can understand the restlessness of your leaders, both of the top level and local ones, as they could not suppress the voice of dissent. But you directly started making offers to journalists?” said Wadettiwar.
On the other hand, state Congress president Nana Patole said Bawankule’s statements are insulting to the media.
The NCP was also quick to react and said that the BJP was trying to buy journalists who were trying to speak the truth.
“Is BJP Maharashtra state president Chandrashekhar Bawankule asking BJP workers to treat the journalists who speak the truth or is his statement a veiled threat to true journalists?” NCP (Sharad Pawar faction) national spokesperson Clyde Crasto posted on X.
(With PTI inputs)