New Delhi: Is the Bharatiya Janata Party maintaining an army of trolls to viciously target rival politicians, the Gandhis, journalists and even filmsstars, including the Khans?
A former volunteer of the BJP’s IT cell, Sadhavi Khosla, has been quoted in a book — I Am A Troll, written by Swati Chaturvedi — as saying that volunteers and employees working in the BJP's IT cell were given a “hit list of mainstream journalists, who needed to be constantly attacked.”
She has claimed that “the goal was to attack and expose Gandhi family... troll them and mock them.” In the book, Ms Khosla claims that “if there was even an unfavourable mention of Modiji anywhere, BJP’s digital tracking tools would pick it up and the pack of hyena-like trolls would descend”.
When contacted, Arvind Gupta, who was heading the BJP’s National Digital Operations Centre (NDOC) during the 2014 general elections and has been the main target of attack by Ms Khosla in the book, rubbished the allegations.
He claimed that Ms Khosla “never worked for us”, but added that he had once “run into Khosla at a wedding” and that she had “pitched for a project, which she never got”.
While the book has published a photograph of Ms Khosla with the BJP’s candidate from Chandigarh, Kirron Kher, “at her home in a chai pe charcha” during the 2014 elections, another “latest” photograph of Ms Khosla was promptly sent by the BJP to this correspondent, showing Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi flanked by three people, including Ms Khosla. Mr Gupta pointed out that “Khosla works for the Congress in Punjab”.
In the chapter titled ‘The BJP connection’, the author quotes Ms Khosla extensively, who claims that after the victory in general elections, the BJP IT cell “got bigger and new enemies are found everyday to attack and target”.
Ms Khosla further says that “with UP elections coming up, the BJP’s social media cell is expanding”. The book alleges that the “flood of bile Khosla was expected to promote slowly started getting to her”.
“It was a never-ending drip feed of hate and bigotry against minorities, Gandhi family, the journalists on hit list, liberals... anyone perceived as anti-Modi," Ms Khosla is quoted as saying.
Agencies paid to tweet, trend hashtags: Book
The book claims that Ms Khosla "had even raised her concerns with the pioneer of social media in the RSS and the BJP, Ram Madhav."
After a patient hearing, Mr Madhav allegedly told her, "You have a very apt name for our party, Sadhavi. It goes very well with the BJP. Focus on the positives. These things should be ignored."
With regard to Aamir Khan's remark last year, about his wife's "sense of insecurity" over the "rising intolerance", the book alleges that the BJP's IT cell insrtructed "all the party's social media volunteers to endorse a petition addressed to Snapdeal asking for Aamir Khan to be dropped from their advertisements."
The book also claims that some agencies were "being paid to tweet and trend hashtags that attack anti-BJP parties." One such agency was allegedly paid to tweet against Delhi chief minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal "at the rate of Rs 40 for seven tweets."
The famous "chai pe charcha" was conducted digitally through live interactions, to augment the voterbase, and the websites India272.com, namonumber.com were launched. Multiple reports claim that the Facebook page "I support Narendra Modi" has got about eight million likes....