The timing was perfect and the details convincing, a fake document claiming to be the list of Congress candidates for upcoming Karnataka elections kept the phones of several Congress leaders busy on Tuesday night.
With calls from reporters and party workers flooding in, senior Congress leaders including Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah were forced to go on social media late at night, to clarify that the document was fake.
The document emerged on the web when the Congress screening committee meeting was finalising the names of candidates, misleading many into believing the document was authentic.
Senior party leaders who said a police complaint will be filed, alleged that the BJP’s social media cell was behind the fake document. The BJP social media team denied the allegation and claimed the document was a handiwork of some ticket aspirants within the party.
Mallikarjun Kharge and Ramya’s Mother Figure in the Fake List
The fake list mentioned 131 names, including the names of senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who had insisted that he would not be contesting the election and Ranjita, mother of Congress’ social media cell head Ramya, who had threatened to contest as an independent if the Congress party didn’t provide her with a ticket.
The absence of the Congress party’s letterhead was a giveaway, but the signature of Oscar Fernandes, member of the Congress Central Election Committee and the seal of the party, led to the many party workers sharing the list on the social media.
It was only after the senior party leaders clarified, that the buzz around the list died down.
Not the First Fake Document
This candidate list was not the first fake document to emerge in Karnataka before the elections. In the first week of April, after the Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said he would contest from the Chamundeshwari constituency in Mysuru, a fake intelligence report suggesting Siddaramaiah should not contest from the Chamundeshwari emerged.
“The constituency of Chamundeshwari in Mysore district is not a viable option, as there is a strong caste-based mobilisation of the Vokkaliga community being carried out by G T Deve Gowda and other local leaders of JD(S) party,” read the fake document.
Intelligence Reports Are Written in Kannada: Siddaramaiah
Soon after the fake document began doing rounds, Siddaramaiah clarified that all the intelligence documents will be Kannada and the document doing the rounds was a fake one.
“The Intelligence department has not given any such report. The report is false and fabricated. The ADGP post in the Intelligence department is lying vacant. Moreover, the Intelligence reports are usually in Kannada, not English,” the Chief Minister’s office further clarified in a statement.
A senior intelligence officer told The Quint that the document had several loopholes. “Apart from the post of ADGP intelligence being vacant, the seal on the document was of the department of fire and emergency services. The letter was also marked to the Home Minister, even though Chief Minister held portfolio of intelligence,” the official pointed out.
However, this didn’t stop the political parties from the using this document. JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy, citing the document, claimed he would lodge a complaint with the Election Commission against the Chief Minister for using the intelligence department for political gains.
Since the fake document was exposed, no complaint was lodged by Kumaraswamy.
When asked about the plans Election Commission has for monitoring fake news on social media, Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Sanjiv Kumar said that although it’s difficult to monitor all the social media activity during the elections, the commission will monitor the social media activities of major political parties and leaders. This task has been given to the social media cell of the Karnataka police, they added.