Celebrity Tweets ‘Probe’: Political Rivalry or Legitimate Inquiry?
Is the probe yet another instance of a political tug-of-war between Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi and the Centre?
The ‘celebrity tweets’ probe in Maharashtra is rife with political undertones. Recently, the state BJP unit staged a rally in support of Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar after state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh ordered an inquiry by the Intelligence Department into the celebrity tweets over the farmers’ protest.
Now, this raises a pertinent question – Will this probe will reach its logical conclusion or is it yet another instance of political rivalry between Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi and the BJP’s central government.
The Tweets That Led to ‘Probe Politics’
The uproar began when international personalities like Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, Mina Harris, Mia Khalifa and Amanda Cerny tweeted expressing their solidarity with the ongoing farmers ‘protest at the Delhi borders.
Following the outpour of support from international icons, the protests garnered international attention.
However, this worldwide recognition converted into a tense political talking-point when Bollywood and sport icons, including Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Saina Nehwal, Lata Mangeshkar and Akshay Kumar among others tweeted, discernibly in response to the international celebrities, calling for the ‘unity of India’ with a hashtag #IndiaAgainstPropgoganda.
Known to maintain their silence on other internal matters of the country, the famous personalities faced heavy trolling on social media. Politicians like Sharad Pawar and Raj Thackeray also responded to their posts on the social media platform.
Maharashtra Home Minister Orders ‘Probe’
However, in a crucial turn of events, Maharashtra Congress appealed to state Home Minister Deshmukh to investigate if these national icons had tweeted their statements under political pressure, citing that from the timing, content and context of the tweets, it seemed that they ‘were all given a script.’
The tweets did have some similarities. And, in some cases, were completely identical to each other.
It was after this that the state home minister assured Congress' Sachin Sawant that the intelligence department would conduct an inquiry and probe whether Sachin, Lata Mangeshkar and other famous celebrities were pressured to tweet in support of the Centre.
Soon after, the BJP weighed in, supporting the celebrities and defending their tweets.
Former CM of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis took to Twitter saying, “Has this MVA govt. lost all its senses? MVA should be ashamed while using the word ‘probe’ for Bharat Ratnas. It seems necessary to probe the mental stability of the ones who made such demand and who ordered probe against our Bharat Ratnas!”
On the other hand, central Minister Prakash Javadekar questioned, "Is it a sin to be patriotic in Maharashtra now? Why will Sachin Tendulkar, Lata Mangeshkar, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan be subject to a probe for their statements in favour of India. This is what it means, FDI – Foreign Destructive Ideology."
Experts Weigh In
Meanwhile, The Quint reached out to legal experts to find out if such an inquiry was possible, what the provisions were for such a probe, and ultimately, if these investigations are likely to reach a meaningful conclusion?
Retired Judge of Mumbai Sessions Court VK Patil said that, “No person who tweeted in the case has filed a complaint about the pressure. The demand has been made on behalf of the Congress party, which is the third party in the matter. Therefore, there is no locus standi in the case. However, the government has the right to take Suo motu cognizance and examine any issue but it is difficult to determine the scope of investigation.”
“Unless the people who have tweeted talk about pressure, it can’t be proved. Therefore, the investigating officers will have to question the concerned persons in this case,” he added.
The Quint also reached out Maharashtra Home Minister Deshmukh and the State Intelligence Services, but they have not yet offered their insight into the matter, perhaps making it evident that the probe ordered by the Maharashtra government is a mark of the dispute between the MVA government and the BJP.
Earlier, the many cases in which the Maharashtra Home Minister had ordered an inquiry did not reach a concrete conclusion.
Let’s take a look at some of the probes ordered by the Deshmukh against the central government:
- In Bhima Koregaon case, the state government had ordered a parallel probe in which several people were suspected to have been implicated by the Home Minister.
- The crime branch and state cybercrime unit were ordered to look into the conspiracy to create nearly 80,000 fake accounts for defaming the Mumbai Police in relation to the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
- A video of Kangana Ranaut saying that she used to be a drug addict surfaced. An inquiry was ordered by the home minister following a demand raised in the Assembly by a Shiv Sena MLA.
- Bhima Koregaon case accused Gautam Navlakha was not given his spectacles while in jail. After this, Deshmukh had taken to Twitter to appeal for a probe into the Taloja jail authorities, where he was lodged.
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