Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Tuesday announced an investigation into the “conspiracy” to malign the image of the Mumbai Police and the state government in connection with the case related to Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, Hindustan Times reported. Deshmukh blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for the defamation.

Deshmukh said that the investigation will be done by the cyber crime division of the Maharashtra Police and crime branch of Mumbai Police.

The Maharashtra minister referred to a study by the University of Michigan in the United States on the social media campaign in Rajput’s case. The study found that the BJP proposed “murder alternative” to the “suicide” narrative in the case, more aggressively than the Congress. The study is titled Anatomy of a Rumour: Social media and the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput.

The researchers also pointed to the role of hashtags in the social media campaign. “The use of hashtags by politicians shows a systematic targeting of the Shiv Sena (#UddhavResignOrCBI4SSR, #ShameOnMahaGovt, #BabyPenguin), the last being a disparaging reference aimed at Aditya Thackeray,” the study noted. “This shows that the hashtag usage by politicians is dominated by those inimical to the present Maharashtra government, largely the BJP.”

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Deshmukh criticised the BJP over the report’s findings. “The study report has stated that SSR [Sushant Singh Rajput] case study reveals the BJP’s hand in hatching the conspiracy theory in the case,” he was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

He blamed certain TV channels for being at the forefront of this conspiracy. “Cyber crime cell of the Maharashtra police will investigate the fake accounts created as part of the conspiracy,” Deshmukh said.

Deshmukh said that the All India Institute of Medical Sciences panel had confirmed that the actor died by suicide and ruled out all theories of murder, but BJP leaders continued to defame the Mumbai Police for political gain.

Sushant Singh Rajpur died on June 14. Credit: Stringer/AFP

He criticised BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, who is handling BJP’s election campaign in Bihar. “The Supreme Court... applauded Mumbai police’s investigation,” he told Hindustan Times. “A few BJP leaders targeted the Mumbai police for the political gain in the Bihar elections. They even crossed the limit and called the Mumbai police mafia.” Deshmukh demanded an apology from Fadnavis.

The BJP, on the other hand, refuted the allegations. “We strongly condemn political and false allegations,” BJP leader Atul Bhatkhalkar was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “The BJP or Devendra Fadnavis will never indulge in any illegal activity. Deshmukh is the most irresponsible home minister Maharashtra has had so far. He should conduct the probe. We are not against it.”

The case

Earlier on Tuesday, the Mumbai Police said that they had registered two first information reports under the Information Technology Act against social media account holders and fake accounts in connection with the investigation into Rajput’s death.

The police have reportedly identified more than 80,000 fake accounts created on various social media platforms to discredit them and the Maharashtra government over the ongoing investigation.

Rajput was found dead in his apartment in Bandra on June 14, in what the Mumbai Police said was a case of suicide. Many were of the view that Rajput was killed.

The Central Bureau of Investigation had taken over the inquiry from the Bihar Police in an abetment to suicide case filed by the actor’s father KK Singh in Patna against actor Rhea Chakraborty and her family.

After a drug angle emerged in the case, the Narcotics Control Bureau arrested Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik Chakraborty for their alleged role in procuring drugs for Rajput. The agency described Rhea Chakraborty as an “active member of a drug syndicate”. Her arrest led to the questioning of several high-profile actors, including Deepika Padukone, in a widening drugs probe.

Besides this, the Enforcement Directorate is also investigating money laundering charges in the case.