Row as BJP says Congress ‘toolkits’ defame India

Updated on May 19, 2021 03:22 AM IST

The document asked its readers to tarnish Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image and “erode his popularity”; suggested using phrases such as “Indian strain” and “Modi strain” for the variants of the Sars-CoV-2 virusthat were first detected in the country; and cited briefing foreign journalists over India’s mismanagement of the second wave of the coronavirus disease.

The BJP attack on Tuesday was led by party president JP Nadda, who accused the Congress of “dividing society” and “spewing venom”.(ANI Photo)
The BJP attack on Tuesday was led by party president JP Nadda, who accused the Congress of “dividing society” and “spewing venom”.(ANI Photo)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Pandemic politics intensified on Tuesday with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging that the Congress prepared elaborate “toolkits” to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi, build a biased narrative over India’s Covid-19 management, politicise religious events, and link the medical crisis to the Central Vista project.

The Congress responded by dismissing the charges as fake, and lodging a complaint of forgery and cyber crime with the Delhi Police.

A document circulating on the social media -- with Congress party symbols and markings on it -- was shared and cited by BJP leaders as an alleged call to arms by the Congress to its supporters. The document asked its readers to tarnish Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image and “erode his popularity”; suggested using phrases such as “Indian strain” and “Modi strain” for the variants of the Sars-CoV-2 virusthat were first detected in the country; and cited briefing foreign journalists over India’s mismanagement of the second wave of the coronavirus disease.

The Congress, however, maintained that the documents on Covid wereconcocted, and its leaders slammed the BJP, calling it “Bikul Jhooth Party”.

The BJP attack on Tuesday was led by party president JP Nadda, who accused the Congress of “dividing society” and “spewing venom”. “Congress is a master at this. India is seeing Congress’s antics, while the nation is fighting Covid-19, I would urge Congress to go beyond ‘toolkit models’ and do something constructive,” he tweeted, citing the documents.

Hours earlier, the ruling party’s Rajya Sabha member Sambit Patra first posted the documents on Twitter, and said: “Disgusting to say the least ... Rahul Gandhi wanting to use this opportunity of pandemic to destroy the image of PM Modi. No stone left unturned to scar the name of India with the help of foreign journalists.”

Patra added the documents referred to liaising with journalists who write in foreign publications and briefing them on talking points. He said that the documents showed the Congress also wanted to promote dramatic photographs of funerals and dead bodies in order to malign India.

Patra also said that the alleged toolkit spoke of giving a religious tone to the Covid spread by asking that the Kumbh mela in Haridwar -- which was visited by 9.1 million pilgrims before it was effectively curtailed -- be always described as a a “superspreader”.

Rajeev Gowda, chairman of the Congress party’s research department, responded by saying that the BJP was propagating a “fake toolkit on Covid-19 mismanagement” and attributing it to the Congress. “When our country is devastated by Covid, instead of providing relief, the BJP shamelessly concocts forgeries,” he said, adding that the party was filing charges against Nadda and Patra

Other Congress leaders said that the document prepared on the Central Vista project was genuine, and that it simply highlighted problems associated with the revamp of the central avenue in Delhi, and the expenses involved in it. They alleged that this document was used as a template to create the fake documents and alleged action plants on Covid-19.

“The toolkit is a fabricated document. It is a forged document on Congress letterhead. It is another façade created by the Modi government to distract people’s attention from the real issues. How much time and efforts would you spend in covering the truth and spreading lies. If you had invested half that time and energy, India would not be struggling this much,” Congress leader Pavan Khera said.

The purported Congress document also mentioned mobilising “former civil servants to raise questions about PM CARES Fund” and to “aggressively question or embarrass” celebrities wanting to donate to it. The purported document also suggested the use of phrases such as “missing [Union home minister] Amit Shah”, “quarantined [external affairs minister S] Jaishankar”, “sidelined [defence minister] Rajnath Singh”, and “insensitive [finance minister] Nirmala Sitharaman”.

Toolkits first hit the news in February this year after Delhi Police linked a social media toolkit on farm protests to clashes that rocked the Capital on Republic Day, saying the document aimed to spread misinformation and incite unrest. Police also arrested climate activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru and charged her with sedition, intending to riot and criminal conspiracy for allegedly editing the online document that Swedish Nobel laureate Greta Thunberg first publicised in support of farmers agitating against three central laws.

Toolkits are essentially documents detailing social media strategy and digital campaign plans for a particular body. Ravi was granted bail on February 23.

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