As the entire nation is still reeling in the festive mood, Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai got dragged into a new controversy. The state's Congress party has levelled allegations that an official from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) gave Deepavali hampers loaded with cash to senior reporters, editors and news organisations.

Karnataka Congress demanded answers from CMO on the allegations of bribing the journalists. In a series of tweets, the opposition party demanded a judicial probe into the CMO's "sweet box bribe" to journalists.

Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai
Karnataka CM Basavaraj BommaiIANS

"Is that misuse of public tax money? Commission is money for the sin of corruption? What is the source of that money? The people of the state should know how much money was given as bribe, how much was received, how much was returned," Karnataka Congress said.

According to Congress, enveloped loaded with up to Rs 2.5 lakh was given to journalists on the pretext of Deepavali. International Business Times has reached out to the CMO for a statement on the matter. IBTimes hasn't been able to independently verify the claims made by Karnataka Congress or other media reports.

Journalists return cash gifts

According to TNM, at least three anonymous journalists reportedly confirmed that cash hampers were distributed.

Basavaraj Bommai
Basavaraj BommaiIANS

"Yes, they sent the money. But I didn't see how much money they sent. I immediately sent it back as soon as it came to my notice," a journalist in a leading daily newspaper was quoted as saying by TNM. The journalist said that the Deepavali sweet hamper was left at the office with the guards on Saturday night. "I picked it up and when I opened it, I saw an envelope with cash in it. I did not count it, but I made sure the amount was returned," the journalist said.

"I reported it to my editors. I told the CMO official that I really cannot accept this and that this is wrong," the journalist said, according to TNM. The third journalist, a leading editor with a TV channel, told TNM that he knew hampers had been distributed. "I asked the CM office to come clean with this, but they did not."

In another report, TNM quoted an editor who spoke to the CM on the matter and said that Bommai wasn't aware of the cash gift in the Deepavali hamper.

More details are awaited.