BJP candidate and Bengali film actor Joy Banerjee found himself in the eye of a storm Friday after a television channel broadcast a footage claiming he was distributing money during his poll campaign. The candidate and his party denied the allegation.
Banerjee, who was campaigning as a candidate for the Birbhum Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal, was said to have handed out notes to two persons in Tarapith area of Birbhum.
However, Banerjee claimed he had given the money only to the needy and for offering a chadar on a Muslim shrine. "I have come to this shrine as an individual, and not a candidate."
But the opposition was far from convinced.
"He has violated the elections rules. We are complaining to the Election Commission. We demand action," said Birbhum district Trinamool Congress chief Anubrata Mondal.
District Communist Party of India-Marxist secretary Dilip Ganguly condemned the incident, and demanded steps against Banerjee as per the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) provisions.
State Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said: "Once the MCC is in force, if a candidate doles out money, that is interpreted as being given in lieu of votes."
BJP state president Rahul Sinha was quick to defend Banerjee.
"He had gone to a Muslim mazar (shrine) where people said he must offer a chadar. Joy said he has not brought any chadar. So he gave money so that chadar can be brought and draped on the mazar as an offering."
"Also it is a custom that if you go to a place of pilgrimage, then you hand out some amount of money to the poor and needy. He had done just that, and gave money to some beggars. What is wrong in that? Now the opposition is using this benevolent act to spread canards against the BJP," Sinha told IANS.
An Election Commission official said they were yet to receive a complaint.