The Congress on Tuesday demanded that Twitter should include the “manipulated media” tag to the tweets of 11 Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for allegedly spreading false information against the party.
The party’s demands were made amid a controversy that began after BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra tweeted on May 18 with the allegation that the Congress had created a “toolkit” or campaign material to tarnish the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government in connection with the management of the coronavirus crisis. Several BJP leaders, including the party’s National President JP Nadda, had amplified Patra’s tweet.
On Tuesday, the party’s national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala wrote to Twitter with the demands. The letter said that BJP leaders were sharing the “toolkit” to “gain undue and wrongful political advantage by spreading potentially dangerous, false and fabricated material through their Twitter handles”.
The senior BJP leaders and current Union ministers named in the Congress’ letter are Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Minister Giriraj Singh, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
“It is a matter of fact that people tend to believe ‘true’ and take on face value any information that is put up directly by a Union Minister of the Government of India through his/ her official/ verified Twitter account,” Surjewala’s letter read. “Hence, it becomes all the more imperative to tag, ‘manipulative media’, on all such tweets made by Ministers of the Government of India on the above referred forged toolkit document created by the BJP.”
Surjewala said that he expected some form of action against the BJP leaders. “...the aforementioned individuals will be dealt with the same yardstick as applied in other cases where the Twitter platform is misused to broadcast forged and fabricated material...” the letter read.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel pointed out that senior BJP leader Raman Singh’s tweet from May 18 had also been tagged as “manipulated media”.
On Tuesday, two Congress leaders, Rajiv Gowda and Rohan Gupta, were sent notices by the Delhi Police to join the investigation into the “Congress toolkit” controversy.
The Congress has filed first information reports against Patra in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where the party is in power. It had also informed the police that the “toolkit” was fake. Fact-checking website AltNews also found that the document was created on a fake Congress letterhead.
On Sunday, the police in Raipur registered a FIR against Patra and Singh for allegedly forging the letterhead of Congress’ Research Department and printing “false and fabricated” content.