With barely five days to go for the high octane assembly polls, campaigning has touched its crescendo in Punjab. Parties in the fray are not leaving any chance to pin each other down. The result: Barbs are flying thick and fast, and so are allegations.
It’s free for all on social media that has turned into a virtual battlefield. Parties are churning out fake IB reports, concocting secret letters written by leaders of rival parties, generating videos showing half truths and misleading cartoons, all aimed at grabbing the vote pie.
Two fake intelligence bureau reports designed to look like top secret e mails sent by senior IB officers to their headquarters are doing the rounds on Facebook and WhatsApp. One of the reports shows the Congress winning 90 seats out of the 117 seats. While the AAP’s score is 16, 11 seats go to SAD-BJP combine.
The other report (with a Punjab map) shows AAP winning almost all seats. The map seemed impressive enough to former Supreme Court judge Justice Markendaya Katju who tweeted it, saying he always believed that AAP was doing well in Punjab!
The past week has also seen a plethora of fake letters “written” by senior party leaders sharing inside details of their poll strategy. AAP’s Punjab affairs in-charge Sanjay Singh’s fake letter to Kejriwal said the Congress was doing much better than them, “suggesting” that Kejriwal should allow local leaders to come to the fore. After the AAP asked the poll panel to probe the matter, another letter surfaced with party’s Bholath candidate Sukhpal Khaira writing to Sanjay Singh and “seeking his apology” for the letter sent to Kejriwal.
Congress leader Partap Bajwa was the next target of the fake letter brigade. His “letter” to Rahul Gandhi said Captain Amarinder’s name should not have been announced as CM as it would damage the party.
Bajwa had to tweet that the letter circulating in his name was fake. The letter was then sourced to an AAP worker close to Kejriwal who denied having anything to do with it.
A fake video showing AAP’s Bhagwant Mann getting intimate with a woman went viral two days ago.
A cartoon on the AAP’s Facebook page showed 60,000 NRIs arriving in Punjab in their support and not a single one for the Congress.
Television surveys of seat counts, too, seem to have lost their credibility.
A survey showing AAP ahead in Punjab was hailed by the party on social media. However, a day later, the TV channel denied that it had conducted a survey. Another survey, showing Akalis doing better, invited sharp criticism from Kejriwal who sought to know how much money the channel had pocketed for the exercise.
Other than fake news, WhatsApp is flooded with videos generated by the overactive Akali social media team.
The messages have SAD leaders as profile pictures or in many cases of pretty women. The videos are all about SAD-BJP achievements or propaganda material against AAP and Congress.