After issuing instructions to tear down the posters, which the chief minister said were aimed at tarnishing his image, two members of the Congress social media team were detained for questioning by the Bengaluru Crime Branch police.
“Two members from our social media team have been picked up by the police for questioning on the PayCM poster that we launched to expose the 40 per cent BJP sarkar (government). Along with our state Congress chief DK Shivakumar, we are meeting the police to find out why they have detained them,” Priyank Kharge, chairman of the Congress’s communication team, confirmed to News18.
CONGRESS’ POSTER ATTACK ON BJP
“The posters are part of the Congress campaign to expose the corrupt BJP government. Our senior leaders, including Shivakumar and Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah, launched the anti-corruption campaign with the slogan ‘40% Sarkara, BJP Andre Brashtachara’ (40% government, BJP means corruption). Every Kannadiga has been affected by BJP’s corruption and with the help of our social media team, we conceptualised this campaign. PayCM has become a successful campaign and has hit the BJP where it hurts most,” added Kharge.
The QR code on the poster, when scanned, takes people to the website launched by the Congress called www.40percentsarkara.com, which they said allowed the people of Karnataka to report cases of corruption and further expose the BJP.
CM Bommai ordered a thorough inquiry into the poster incident and an FIR was filed against “unknown persons” by the Bengaluru police to investigate the matter.
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Prathap Reddy issued instructions to all deputy commissioners in the city to closely monitor CCTV footage and track down those who were found putting up these posters.
While scouring through hundreds of CCTV camera images, the police found pictures of four men in an auto-rickshaw pasting the controversial posters at Mekhri Circle in the RT Nagar area. Police officials also found footage of the posters being hoarded in a local hotel.
“The Central Division Police registered cases under the Public Places Disfigurement Act. The cases have been transferred to the City Crime Branch (CCB),” Reddy said.
Both BR Naidu, formerly the social media head of the Congress, and DA Gagan Yadav were picked up by the police for questioning on Thursday. While Naidu was picked up from his home in Vasanthnagar, Yadav — son of Congress leader DA Gopal and nephew of former Congress minister A Krishnappa — was picked up from his residence in KR Puram in the wee hours of the morning.
An official of the Congress social media team on condition of anonymity explained how the families of both Congressmen began to send desperate messages and make calls to party leaders and the social media team to help them.
“They said the police landed at the untimely hour and asked the leaders to accompany them. They came in the middle of the night to ensure that none of the Congress members would be prepared to raise a flag,” the official said.
At around 2.04 am, the KPCC team sent out an official message to the media about the incident.
“Dear media persons it is past 2 am in the middle of the night. Former chairman of KPCC Social Media department BR Naidu was taken by four policemen from the High Grounds police station to question him about the ‘Pay CM,’ poster. KPCC requests media representatives to please come near High Grounds. His family is worried. Media representatives are requested to cooperate,” it said.
THE BRAINS BEHIND THE CONCEPT
The Congress communications team led by Kharge has been the brains behind the campaign. The team says after the official launch by the KPCC, the toll-free helpline number — 8447704040 — launched for people to register their complaints against the government has been buzzing non-stop. The aim was to allow people to register their complaints when they were forced to pay corrupt officials or politicians for a job, allocation or any other public interest work.
The toll-free number with a WhatsApp facility has been receiving documents and videos from people across the state which shows rampant corruption, Congress said.
“We also published a rate card with this. What is unique about this is that the rates starting from the CM’s chair to the police constable’s job are not fabricated by us but are a collation of information and statements made by BJP leaders, MLAs, MLCs , contractors association, etc,” the leader explained.
Kharge added: “We got an interesting document of an officer from the horticulture department who, while clearing a file, has written 10 per cent commission for the minister on paper. We have been receiving several documents like this on this toll-free number.”
BJP sources say party leaders are not bothered by the Congress campaign as it is nothing but “an act of desperation” and it is known that the Congress will not be able to fight the upcoming elections based on development and governance. BJP sources close to strategy and planning told News18 that the party will not take the malicious campaign seriously.
However, News18 has learnt that the party’s social media team has posted several videos of corrupt Congressmen and is in the process of pulling out corruption cases and scams during the Congress regime as well as other damaging videos that could expose Congress leaders, say sources.
NOT THE FIRST POSTER WAR
This was not the first time that Bommai has faced an embarrassing poster. On September 17, when the Karnataka CM was visiting Hyderabad, huge billboards that said ‘Welcome 40% CM’ were seen across Telangana’s capital. This came amidst another poster war between the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and BJP just before Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s rally on Telangana Liberation Day.
Bommai reacted sharply to the dig, calling it a political conspiracy that could even “spoil ties between the two states”.
The BJP’s social media team launched a counter-attack on the same lines as the Congress. They put out QR-code posters with the faces of Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar with the tagline — Redo and ED — referring to the money laundering cases against Shivakumar being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the alleged denotification scam where Siddaramaiah reportedly illegally de-notified 600 acres of land when he was chief minister.
One of the BJP posters read: “Public notice, don’t let these two come near you. Redo, Siddaramaiah, and ED, DK Shivakumar. Stay away from Congress, which has looted the state. Scan this code to throw out this corrupt duo who have looted the state and spoiled it. How they spoilt the state, telling lies.”