Did Cong Prepare a ‘Toolkit’ to Target Govt on COVID Management?
Rajeev Gowda said that someone has forged a fake document on the genuine Central Vista one prepared by the party.
On Tuesday, 18 May, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit out at the Congress party, alleging that the latter had intended to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Various BJP leaders shared a document on Twitter, to prove that the party’s agenda was “driven by hatred towards India.”
The alleged document – titled ‘Cornering Narendra Modi and BJP on COVID management’ – was printed on the Congress party’s letterhead and asked people to show that ‘Kumbh is a show of political power in the name of religion while Eid gatherings are happy social gatherings.’
It further asked people to use phrases like ‘Indian strain’ or ‘Modi strain’ when talking about the new COVID variant. It asked people to use phrases like ‘missing’ Amit Shah, ‘Quarantined’ Jaishankar, ‘Sidelined’ Rajnath Singh while addressing the BJP senior leaders on social media.
It also mentions the relief work being carried out by the Indian Youth Congress and notes that calls for “media, journalists and influencers” must be given priority.
Soon after, #CongressToolkitExposed started trending on Twitter with top ministers amplifying the claim.
The document was shared by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Textile Minister Smriti Irani, party president JP Nadda, Railway minister Piyush Goyal, spokesperson Sambit Patra, Shobha Karandlaje, Rajyavardhan Rathore among others.
It must be noted that the ‘toolkit’ which is being shared is an eight-page document, while the Congress’ Central Vista document is a six-page document.
BUT WHAT DOES CONGRESS HAVE TO SAY?
Chairman of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) research department and national spokesperson Rajeev Gowda took to Twitter and said that the BJP was “propagating a fake toolkit” on “COVID-19 mismanagement.”
Speaking to The Quint, he reiterated the same and added that someone has forged a fake document by editing the genuine Central Vista document, which was prepared by the party.
“They got hold of the Central Vista document first and then they modelled the fake document on that but they haven’t done a 100 percent job. If you look at the tone, tenure, format then you will know the difference. They have very cleverly taken some lines from the Central Vista document and pasted that on Section IV of the fake document.”Rajeev Gowda, Congress
Gowda shared a six-page Central Vista document, which talks about the project, and added that this is a factual document which the party has prepared. He further alleged that it was either “stolen” or “leaked” to the BJP.
DIFFERENCES IN THE DOCUMENT PREPARED BY THE BJP AND THE ONE SHARED BY CONGRESS
We accessed another document to compare, that shows that there is a consistent format which is followed by the party in their research work. We found that while the Central Vista document has similar format and fonts, the one shared by the BJP has several formatting issues.
In this section, we will highlight the differences between the two documents (circulating online) along with another document, to highlight some glaring differences.
First, the font used in the Central Vista document and the COVID mismanagement document is different, as one can see from the difference in the letter ‘M’.
Second, in the COVID mismanagement document, a slightly leaner font is used as compared to the Central Vista one. Even the way number ‘1’ is written while naming the page numbers, is not identical.
Third, let’s look at the alignment of reference links. In one of the pages of the COVID mismanagement document, there is considerable space between the URL and the serial number.
However, that’s not the case in the Central Vista document.
A document prepared by the party, in March 2021, accessed by The Quint, also showed that the party has been following a format which is not the same as the one seen in the COVID mismanagement document.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE META DETAILS OF THE DOCUMENT SHARED BY SAMBIT PATRA?
On 19 May, Patra shared a screenshot of the properties of the alleged toolkit created by the Congress. The screenshot showed that one Saumya Verma had authored the said document and the file name is: ‘Central_Vista_Vanity_Project_AICC_Research_1_.pdf’
We then found the metadata of the document provided by Rajeev Gowda to us and compared its properties with the one that Patra had shared. Both of them have similar details in terms of the name of the file, number of pages, PDF version, author’s name.
The metadata details also showed that the document shared by Rajeev Gowda was prepared on 7 May.
Gowda told us that the properties of the document, which were shared by Patra, was the original document. “This document was prepared by Saumya Varma, she is the head of research. And now, BJP has launched a hashtag attacking her,” he added.
Gowda clarified the same on Twitter.
DID ANYONE FOLLOW THE SAID ‘TOOLKIT’?
BJP leaders suggested that the aim of this toolkit was to create an ‘anti-government’ and ‘anti-India’ narrative using certain words repeatedly, like ‘super spreader Kumbh,’ targeting ministers using terms like ‘Missing’ Amit Shah, ‘Quarantined’ Jaishankar and to use words like ‘Modi strain’ to denote the new COVID strain.
But no such coordinated effort could be traced on Twitter.
EXHIBIT 1: ‘Use terms like super spreader Kumbh’
For anything to make an impact or get attention online, posting just a few posts doesn’t work. Generally, hundreds of thousand of similar posts with similar keywords, catch phrases are used to push a narrative.
But this wasn’t the case here. We tried searching for ’super spreader Kumbh’ on Twitter between 1 May to 17 May (given the document says May 2021) but didn’t find any such coordination. Some tweets were sarcastic, some used the term to take a dig at people who raised an objection to Kumbh, but no large scale coordination could be noticed.
Fact-checking website AltNews also replicated the trends from the toolkit and found no such coordination.
EXHIBIT 2: ‘Use terms like Modi Strain and Indian strain’
EXHIBIT 3: ‘Respond to help only if the person tags IYC’
Alluding to the COVID relief being done by the Indian Youth Congress leader Srinivas BV, who has been responding to SOS calls on Twitter, the alleged toolkit says that ‘respond to people only if they tag IYC handle’ but that doesn’t seem to be true. Here are some examples:
This further quashes the argument that priority should be given to ‘media professionals, journalists or influencers.’
EXHIBIT 4: Use words like ‘Quarantine’ Jaishankar, ‘Missing’ Amit Shah
A search for ‘Missing Amit Shah’ threw up results for tweets alluding to a ‘missing complaint’ filed by NSUI General Secretary Nagesh Kariyappa. He had said in his complaint that the home minister has gone ‘missing’ amid a raging pandemic.
CONGRESS HAS FILED A COMPLAINT AGAINST BJP
On 18 May, Congress tweeted that Gowda and Rohan Gupta, chairman of party’s social media department, had filed an FIR against BJP leaders JP Nadda, Sambit Patra and others for “forgery and fabricated content.”
On Thursday, 20 May, Rohan Gupta took to Twitter to share that he, along with Rajeev Gowda, had written to Twitter seeking suspension of Twitter accounts of BJP leaders who were “indulging in spreading forged documents attributing to Congress”.
The letter mentioned that the BJP leaders include JP Nadda, Sambit Patra, Smriti Irani, BL Santosh, and others.
While the veracity of the documents cannot be established independently at this time, the above-mentioned errors, discrepancies hint towards the fact that the ‘toolkit’ which is being circulated might not be authentic.
(This story was first debunked by Alt News)
(Update: The story has been updated to reflect that the Congress has written to Twitter seeking suspension of accounts of BJP leaders, who shared the document attributing it to Congress.)
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