“Friends as you must be aware of the Kisan Long march which is clearly a political stunt by the Left. After historic dissions and plans….implemented by Maharashtra Govt. It’s the time to stand strong with our government. So lets trend #KisanThanksDevendra and show our support to our beloved Devendra Sarkar.” In an attempt to build public opinion against Farmers’ long march to Mumbai, the BJP’s social media supporters were up to their usual tricks. The 22 page Google document provided tweet templates to BJP supporters and was circulated on the party’s WhatsApp group.

A screencast video of the document can be seen below:

Even as thousands of farmers were on the streets to press their demands in an unprecedented rally, #KisanThanksDevendra was the hashtag planned to initiate a fake twitter trend showing an overwhelming support for the Fadnavis government. Clearly rattled by this show of strength, the ‘IT cell’’s social media strategy involved singing praises of the Fadnavis government, maligning the opposition and discrediting the Farmers’ march. Some of the sample tweets were as follows:

“Why has the Left suddenly become active to take the farmers’ cause? Why is that only farmers from northern Maharashtra participating in the farmers’ morcha? #KisanThanksDevendra”

“Protestors are not farmers #KisanThanksDevendra http://ras.org.in/the_kisan_sabha_and_adivasi_struggles_in_thane_district_after_1947”

“In the Year of 2016-17 Maharashtra Govt invested 56000 Cr in Agriculture #KisanThanksDevendra”

“Urban Maoist cadres are participating in it, they are poor tribals and not farmers. Their demand is about farming rights in forest. Communist want another incident like like bhima koregaon, Congress, NCP providing tacit support for this. #KisanThanksDevendra”

Alt News spotted a copy of the Google Doc circulating in a WhatsApp group of BJP supporters and decided to counter it on Twitter in a series of tweets.

Soon other Twitter users caught on to mock this attempt of the IT cell. In a hilarious turn of events, #KisanThanksDevendra became a joke on Twitter. The trend was hijacked by those sharing jokes and memes about it. The top retweets were for the tweets of Alt News founders exposing the fake trend.

At-least two of the people accessing the document and tweeting using the #KisanThanksDevendra hashtag were familiar names – Karan Sharma with Twitter handle @IKaransharma27 and Mehul Jain with Twitter handle @TigerNamo. While Mehul Jain had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister in his office, Karan Sharma describes himself as a RSS Swayamsevak and is followed by the PM on Twitter.

After the Alt News expose, the #KisanThanksDevendra hashtag was abandoned by the IT cell and instead they started tweeting by prefixing all their tweets with ‘FARMERS WITH DEVENDRA’. With social media users becoming more aware of the tactics of the IT cell, it won’t be surprising if future attempts to force trend hashtags meet a similar fate.