The Press Club of India – an elite club of journalists usually having one ideological line of thinking conducted its election on Saturday. The elections were held in an atmosphere of tension, uncertainty, and many from within the club are of the opinion that the elections were rigged and largescale fraud was effectuated prior to and during the polling. Two panels are contesting for various posts of the club, which has an annual turnover of over 9 crore rupees and is a den of journalists and media persons to bask in their glory with liquor in one hand and cigarettes in the other.
Allegations have been flowing around that large scale rigging and election fraud has been ignored by the club’s election commission. Twitter user Alok Bhatt exposed the Press Club of India which he alleged is a club of leftists, yet enjoys all facilities from the centre like a Lutyen’s office and subsidized food and liquor. However, the club has its own process of election and Bhatt claimed that a journalist named Chandrashekhar Luthra had complained to the election body demanding free and fair elections in PCI, but the same was ignored and the elections were concluded on Saturday. Luthra had alleged that signatures of some candidates from the opposing panel were forged.
Among those whose signatures has been forged is journalist Pallavi Ghosh, who was to contest for the vice presidency of the club. Pallavi Ghosh was contesting from the panel of journalist Sanjay Basak, Chief of Bureau at The Asian Age, who is contesting for the post of president of Press Club of India. Basak, in his complaint to the election board of the club, said that the CCTV footage of the withdrawal letter being submitted, the letter itself and the envelope containing the letter must be preserved, as they intend to file a police complaint on the issue. He said that this evidence will help in the investigation.
Chandra Shekhar Luthra, Vinay Kumar and Umakant Lakhera, signed another application demanding an impartial, in-depth and thorough enquiry into the matter of signatures being forged prior to the club’s elections. Alok Bhatt – the Twitter user who brought to light the serious allegation of election fraud flying around also alleged that the Press Club’s venue was actually the residence of Feroze Gandhi. “As journalists used to assemble at his place for his free daaroo (alcohol), it was later made over as a sasti daaroo (cheap liquor) joint for journos!”, Bhatt claimed.
Over 1,400 members of the club, out of its 4,200 aggregate strength had voted between 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday to elect the new board of members who will be responsible for the caretaking and running of the club for the next one year. Yet, the serious and many allegations of election fraud within the press club merit a thorough and unbiased enquiry.