20200915 Rahul Gandhi, Tejaswi Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav and Aditya Thackeray
Clockwise from top left: Rahul Gandhi, Tejaswi Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav and Aditya Thackeray Image Credit: PTI / Gulf News archives

New victims of its nasty ways - like Subramanium Swamy - currently being mass attacked by the infamous IT cell of the BJP are now complaining vociferously.

Swamy uses the same social media, which he has also used to destroy reputations of leaders like Sonia and her son Rahul Gandhi and to ask the BJP to “sack that character Malviya, who is a fount of filth”.

Dr Subramanian Swamy Image Credit: AP

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That character is actually Amit Malviya, head of the BJP IT cell, who reports directly to the duo of Modi and Shah in whose image the IT cell has been created.

Swamy has complained to J.P. Nadda, BJP president, and asked for Malviya’s removal. Despite it being Swamy’s birthday today don’t expect Malviya’s head as a gift.

The IT cell, with its unlimited funding, is simply too important a weapon for Modi and Shah to agree to Malviya’s removal.

And, while the world may be agitated about fake news and its pernicious effects, it is a huge arrow in the BJP arsenals. When I exposed the inner workings of the BJP’s social army and how Narendra Modi actually followed trolls who indulged in incitement, gave death and rape threats, it made international headlines across the world.

But, nothing changed after the publication of “I am a Troll - Inside the BJP’s Secret Digital Army. Modi did not unfollow a single troll despite global headlines.

I had exposed how the BJP used industrial level jokes and memes complete with fake news to destroy former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s image. They dubbed him “Pappu” (a sort of slow mentally deficient person). Gandhi’s image never quite recovered and the BJP continues the campaign.

Having tasted so much success with wrecking Gandhi’s image, the IT cell has started what they call in their communications “Pappu 2” seeking to destroy the image of Aditya Thackeray, Maharashtra minister and son of Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister. The same sort of social media campaign is being run to portray Thackeray as a completely privileged son. An heirloom with a silver spoon and no qualities of his own. The attempt to link Thackeray junior with the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput is part of the same nasty campaign and still on going. The BJP wants to end Thackeray’s political career before it has even begun properly. The allegations made by actor Kangana Ranaut are currently a bludgeon being used by the BJP to attack all those in Bollywood it does not like. Yesterday Ranaut attacked Thackeray for his Bollywood connections.

And, it is not just Thackeray. A campaign is being run called “char Pappu” (four Pappus) which targets Gandhi and calls him Delhi wala Pappu, Thackeray, Mumbai ka Pappu, Akhilesh Yadav “UP wala Pappu” and in view of the upcoming Bihar elections Tejaswi Yadav as “Bihar ka Pappu”.

Read more from Swati Chaturvedi

The aim is the same - ruin the public reputation of Modi’s rivals from other political parties. The jokes, memes and fake news are made viral across media especially what’s app where the BJP runs huge groups and which has no editorial filter. Facebook, in the light of Ankhi Das, India public policy official of FB and her BJP links, is also a fertile ground to seed disinformation.

What this does is make bad information and content based on lies the primary source of the news people consume. As Amit Shah in his address to BJP’s IT cell “yodhas” (warriors) had once boasted: “I don’t care if it’s true or fake just make it viral.”

Electoral politics gets affected when one side has a huge advantage after creating a false narrative about its rivals.

So like Swamy, now a victim of what he had once been complicit in wrecking Gandhi’s image, shouldn’t hold his breath for Modi to act against Malviya. It will never happen - the IT chief is only carrying out Modi’s brief. Wait for the same spin in the Bihar elections.

Swati Chaturvedi, Special to Gulf News-1592296808900