Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani on Saturday took a dig at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over the rise in the number of people retweeting his messages and sought to link this with twitter accounts in Russia, Indonesia and Kazakhstan. However, Congress rejected the allegation as "factually wrong".
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) October 21, 2017
Irani attached with her tweet a news report, "Bots behind rise in Rahul Gandhi's twitter popularity?", which said that a glance at the twitter handles retweeting Gandhi's tweets does throw up some questions. An Internet bot is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Irani also retweeted the reactions of other netizens, including Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar who tweeted:
Her junior in the ministry, Rajyavardhan Rathore, compared the act to doping in sports.
In sports, this would come under ‘Doping’.... hey wait!does ‘dope’ remind you of someone https://t.co/xulfk1ENtI
— Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) October 21, 2017
Questioning whether automated bots were mass retweeting Gandhi's tweets, the report said that on 15 October, 'OfficeofRG' retweeted US President Donald Trump's tweet praising American-Pakistani relations with a caption 'Modi ji quick, looks like President Trump needs another hug'.
The tweet quickly reached 20,000 retweets and currently has touched 30,000, the report claimed, adding a close analysis of this tweet showed that these alleged 'bots' with a Russian, Kazakh or Indonesian characteristic were routinely retweeting the Congress vice-president's tweets.
Amit Malviya, the head of the BJP's IT cell, asked a TV news channel why the Congress has to "buy" support for Rahul Gandhi.
However, the veracity of report could not be independently ascertained.
Divya Spandana, who heads the social media and digital communications wing of the Congress, hit back at Irani and termed the news story as "factually wrong".
"Why do we need them when we have you?" she said in response to Irani's tweet.
Rajeev Shukla, Congress Rajya Sabha MP and Gandhi family loyalist, jumped to the party vice president's defence, saying social media connects the whole world and retweets originating from Russia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia should not be considered out of place.
"They (the BJP) are afraid of Rahul Gandhi and his popularity," Shukla told TV channels.
Another Congress leader and former Union minister RPN Singh said it is unimportant how many times a tweet has been retweeted. He said what is important is the issues Rahul Gandhi has been highlighting through his tweets.
"BJP is not answering. Where is the chowkidar? Why is he not speaking about how the turnover of a company owned by Shahzada's son rose 16,000 times in a year. Why are they not answering...Why are they not answering questions raised by him (Gandhi) about farmers? Why?" Singh said.
Singh was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "silence" on a web portal's report that the turnover of a company owned by Jay Shah, BJP chief Amit Shah's son rose exponentially after the party came to power at the Centre in 2014. Jay Shah has filed a criminal defamation case against the portal — The Wire.
Singh rejected the news agency's claims that 'bots' were behind the perceived rise in Gandhi's popularity on Twitter. "There is nothing like that," he said.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Oct 23, 2017 07:53:22 IST