Some BJP leaders just wouldn’t appreciate the fact that conspiracy theories floated on social media and forwarded with gay abandon via messaging service WhatsApp are untrustworthy. After former Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde said that Fadnavis had become the chief minister of Maharashtra for 80 hours to save Rs 40,000 crore, a theory that happened to be floating around on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp since the day Uddhav Thackeray took the oath of office, former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had to promptly dismiss the claim of the BJP MP from Karnataka.
Shiv Sena had but by now raised a hue and cry over Hegde’s statement, calling Fadnavis’s alleged act as ‘treachery’ with Maharashtra. Fadnavis has, anyway, urged the Uddhav Thackeray government to investigate the matter and bring the truth to the fore.
Devendra Fadnavis said about Hegde’s statement on Monday, “It is completely wrong. I reject it outright. No such incident has happened.”
“For the bullet train, which is basically among the projects of a Union government’s company, all that the Maharashtra government was supposed to do was land acquisition. Whether it is the bullet train or anything else, the central government neither asked for money from the Maharashtra government nor did the Maharashtra government give anything. Therefore, this statement (of Hegde) is completely wrong. This is fake news,” the former chief minister said.
Fadnavis said those who understood the accounting of governments would know this does not happen. The former Maharashtra chief minister said, “I have not taken any such major policy decision at any time when I was the chief minister or acting chief minister. So, this is a completely wrong statement which I reject outright. Those who have an understanding of the accounting system of the Union government and the State government know that neither money is taken nor given in this way.”
“I say very clearly that the government and the finance department should also examine what the truth is and bring it before the people. If someone misrepresents facts, reacting to it is wrong, too,” Fadnavis said, sounding peeved at his party colleague Hegde.
BJP MP and former Union Minister Anant Hegde had said, “You all know that our man in Maharashtra became chief minister for 80 hours. Then Fadnavis also resigned as chief minister. Why did they do this drama? Did he not know that he did not have a majority and still became chief minister? Everyone is asking this question.”
Hegde went on, “The Centre had left Rs 40,000 crore under the control of the chief minister. He knew that if the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena government came to power, they would misuse the money instead of utilising it for development. Because of this, this entire drama was done. Fadnavis became the Chief Minister and in 15 hours Rs 40,000 crore was returned to the Centre.”
Now here are five pieces of evidence that the funny theory was doing the rounds of social media much before Hegde said it.
It’s not known whether the Shiv Sena faked anger on learning of Hegde’s ‘revelations’, as the Karnataka-based politician clearly did not invent this theory. But the Shiv Sena did not let go the opportunity to react sharply to this allegation, calling Fadnavis a ‘traitor’.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut tweeted, “Bjp MP Anant Kumar Hegde says Devendra Fadanvis, as CM for 80 hours, moved Maharashtra’s Rs 40000 crore (sic) to Centre. This is treachery with Maharashtra, महाराष्ट्र के साथ गद्दारी है @OfficeofUT (Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray tagged).”
This is not the first time the BJP found itself in an awkward position after relying on stuff floating without accountability on social media.
Rather infamously, its spokesman Sambit Patra had once taken an Iwo Jima photo for proof of a victory of the Indian Army.
MP and Union minister Babul Supriyo had once claimed a photo falsely to be that of a Rajkot bus stand.
This is not an Airport•It's not in London or New York either•It's the New Bus Stand inaugrated in Rajkot, Gujarat 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/uSrLo9PfJ1
— Babul Supriyo (@SuPriyoBabul) April 19, 2017
But it may well be the first time when a BJP leader’s reliance on a conspiracy theory that went viral on social media has raised a question on a colleague’s integrity.