A huge storm of outrage erupted when former VP Hamid Ansari stated that there’s a sense of unease among Muslims in an interview. What followed was a virulent right-wing troll attack. A sample of attack can be seen in the image below, with both Ashok Singh and Gita Kapoor being followed by PM Modi on Twitter.
Also, a misinformed attack that was launched against Hamid Ansari after 2015 Republic day was reiterated on social media. The account India BTL is followed by PM Modi. Why wasn’t VP Ansari saluting while others were was the question that was asked back then and reiterated again after VP’s controversial interview.
The protocol states that a Vice President is not supposed to salute when the President is present as President is the Principal dignitary. Since President is the first citizen of the country, he is considered as the Principal dignitary in any function he attends. Which is why, in the following picture of 2003 Republic day celebrations, when Mr Vajpayee was the PM, he’s not saluting while former President Abdul Kalam is.
While it is imaginable that Internet trolls may not know the official protocol, it comes as quite a shocker when BJP’s National spokesperson attacks the outgoing VP Hamid Ansari on the same basis. Sambit Patra who is BJP’s National Spokesperson tweeted the following poster on August 13th. In the poster, among other things, the outgoing VP was faulted for not saluting and it was claimed that it was a ‘Fortuitous aberration’.
That was not the only bit of misinformation propagated by Sambit Patra. The poster also contained the headline of a scroll.in article titled “Hamid Ansari’s absence from Yoga Day events sparks a Twitter war”. This controversy arose in 2015 when Hamid Ansari was not present in the International Yoga Day celebrations and BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav had raised this issue on Twitter when he had tweeted, “While the President participated d VP gave a miss“. This attack was then carried forward by BJP’s National IT Cell head Amit Malviya.
The Government had to issue an official apology on behalf of Ram Madhav as the reason why the VP didn’t attend the event was because he wasn’t invited. Huffington post reported that Union minister Shripad Naik cited protocol to say that the Vice-President can’t be invited to an event where the Prime Minister is chief guest amid reports that the government is upset with the needless controversy triggered by Madhav’s tweets. Mr Naik further stated, “Unknowingly something happens, we apologise for that. It should have been avoided. It’s a mistake, he (Madhav) agrees, he apologized. He withdrew his statement,” when he was asked to comment on Madhav’s controversial tweet.
Unfortunately, 2 years later, BJP’s National Spokesperson Sambit Patra is carrying on the same line of attack for which Union Government has already apologized.
This wasn’t the first time Sambit Patra propagated fake news/false information. He had once showed a photoshopped version of Iwo Jima on Times Now.
He had also tweeted a link from a fake news site called Times of Islamabad. Read more about it here.
In a panel discussion on Aaj Tak on March 17 2017, Sambit Patra had claimed that Congress VP Rahul Gandhi had raped a woman called Sukanya Devi. Supreme Court of India had dismissed this allegation back in 2012 and had stated, “The allegation is without substance and without an iota of evidence“. Supreme Court had also fined the petitioners 10 lakhs for the false case. A clipping of the same Aaj Tak discussion can be seen below.
— आज तक (@aajtak) March 17, 2017
A slip here and there is alright. In this day and age of social media, everyone falls for fake news. However, when a National Spokesperson consistently propagates falsity, it is definitely a concern. Is it intentional? Is it an issue with Mr Patra’s work ethic? Only Mr Patra can answer.