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Maharashtra orders probe into 'BJP hand' in similar tweets of celebrities
Mumbai, February 8, 2021
Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Monday ordered a probe into whether the BJP had influenced the tweets by celebrities like Bharat Ratnas Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar, Akshay Kumar, Saina Nehwal and others on the ongoing farmers' protest.
Terming it a "serious" matter, Deshmukh ordered the state Intelligence Department to go into the background of the tweets, many of which were similar in content and even posted at the same time.
The development came after Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant and other leaders lodged a complaint with Deshmukh, demanding to know if "these celebs are under any kind of pressure to post tweets in support of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre".
"Though anybody can comment on any issues, in this case, due to similar content and timings it appears as if a script was given to them. It needs to be examined whether this was indeed scripted and if the BJP is behind it all," Sawant said while giving several examples.
He said that if the BJP is "intimidating our national heroes", they should be provided security and assurance, even as Leader of Opposition and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis cried foul.
Last week, after international pop star Rihanna, environmental activist Greta Thunberg and former adult movie star Mia Khalifa's posts on the farmers' protest in India, many Indian celebrities like Bollywood actors and sportspersons, including cricketers, posted counter-tweets, calling for national unity.
Sawant suspects that these tweets were a "coordinated effort" as many were similarly worded, posted around the same time with common hashtags, raising doubts if they were posted under some kind of pressure.
The celebs had also used similar hashtags like #IndiaTogether, #IndiaAgainstPropaganda etc to counteract against the tweets posted by foreign celebrities who came out in support of the Indian farmers' protests, he said.
"Reactions on the farmers protest are coming from across the world and many celebrities have reacted. But you have a question about the timing of these tweets and whether these were made under pressures. The tweets by Akshay Kumar and Saina Nehwal look similar," Deshmukh noted.
Deshmukh said that there was not even a single word that was different in some of these tweets, which was "a serious matter".
Incidentally, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar had told Tendulkar that he must exercise "caution" while commenting on fields other than his domain of expertise, which is cricket.
However, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray frowned over the manner in which the Central government had apparently exposed legends like Lata and Sachin to vicious social media trolling by allegedly involving them in its efforts to take on the foreign celebriies and said this should have been limited to actors like Akshay Kumar.
As the issue snowballed, Fadnavis attacked the Maha Vikas Aghadi government for the probe into the celebrities' tweets: "Disgusting and highly deplorable. Where is your Marathi pride now? Where is your Maharashtra dharma? We will never find such 'ratnas' (gems) in the entire nation who order probe against Bharat Ratnas who always stand strong in one voice for our nation."
Hitting back, Sawant accused him of deliberately twisting the issue since the Congress sought a probe against the BJP and not the celebrities.
"Why is the BJP mum when tweets of Akshay Kumar and Saina Nehwal match? Why does Suniel Shetty tag a BJP office-bearer in his tweet? Why is the BJP scared of a probe?" Sawant asked.
On February 3, Tendulkar tweeted along with two hashtags: "External forces can be spectators but not participants. Indians know India and should decide for India. Let's remain united as a nation."
That day, Mangeshkar also tweeted with the same two hashtags: "Namaskar. India is a glorious nation and we all Indians stand with our heads held high. As a proud Indian, I have full faith that any issues or problems that as a country we face, we are fully equipped to resolve them amicably, keeping the interest of our people in mind. Jai Hind."
Interestingly, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and badminton ace Saina Nehwal had posted similar tweets on February 3: "Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let's support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences."