Row over celebrity tweets: Probe reveals BJP IT cell’s role, says Maharashtra minister
State home minister Anil Deshmukh on Monday said the preliminary probe into the tweets by Indian celebrities has revealed the involvement of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) information and technology (IT) cell chief as well as 12 others. “The preliminary inquiry by the police has revealed the involvement of BJP IT cell’s chief and 12 other influencers. The police are investigating the matter further,” Deshmukh said on Monday.
After a delegation of state Congress demanded probe into the tweets of some Indian celebrities, Deshmukh had promised inquiry into the alleged pressure on the celebrities to tweet in response to the statements by the international celebrities during the farmers’ protest.
Deshmukh also clarified that he never ordered for a probe against celebrities such as cricketer Sachin Tendulkar or singer Lata Mangeshkar. “My statement was distorted. I never ordered a probe against them, but had asked to probe the BJP IT cell’s role. Mangeshkar and Tendulkar are respected by every Indian and we have high regard for them,” he said after being discharged from a hospital where he was admitted 12 days ago for Covid-19 treatment.
On February 8, state Congress’s delegation, led by general secretary Sachin Sawant, in a meeting with Deshmukh, demanded probe into the tweets. During the meeting, Deshmukh announced to probe on the alleged pressure on celebrities to tweet.
Celebrities including Tendulkar, Mangeshkar and Bollywood actors such as Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar took to Twitter on February 3 after international personalities such as Rihanna and climate change activist Greta Thunberg expressed support for the farmers’ protest. The Indian celebrities tweeted using hashtags #IndiaAgainstPropaganda and #IndiaTogether, framed by the external affairs ministry.
“There’s a similar pattern behind the tweets by Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Tendulkar and Saina Nehwal. The contents of the tweets by Nehwal and Kumar are the same, while Shetty had tagged Mumbai BJP’s vice-president Hitesh Jain. Bollywood is under pressure because of the ongoing probe against some of the artists by the Narcotics Control Bureau. It needs to be probed if the actors were further pressured for such tweets,” Sawant had said.
Former CM Devendra Fadnavis had criticised the state for raising doubts against Tendulkar and Mangeshkar. ”Where’s your Marathi pride now? We’ll never find such ‘ratnas’ [gems] in the entire country who order probe against our Bharat Ratnas who always stand strong in one voice for our country. MVA should feel ashamed while using the word probe for BharatRatnas!...(sic),” he had tweeted.