Has the fight for Uttar Pradesh begun within BJP?

Uttar Pradesh, the “Hindi heartland”, the “cow-belt”, was once upon a time BJP’s bastion. Of late though, BJP had lost its foothold there, with the emergence of caste based parties like SP and BSP. This changed in 2014 when BJP racked up an unprecedented 70+ seats in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections, which powered NDA to a stunning majority. Hence, early surveys in Uttar Pradesh indicate that the 2017 state elections maybe the ticket for BJP’s revival.

The question of course is, who will line up to be the CM candidate in Uttar Pradesh. Two names which get commonly thrown around are Smriti Irani and Varun Gandhi. Irani has been the HRD minister and was “demoted” to the Textile Ministry, which could possibly be a blessing in disguise. She has adopted Amethi as her constituency, where she contested against Rahul Gandhi. She has always remained mum on her political ambitions in UP.

Varun Gandhi on the other hand is out of the news for some time now. Reports say he has been deliberately sidelined, yet some posters of “supporters” often portray him as the CM candidate for Uttar Pradesh. Compensating for his absence from news cycles in his mother Maneka, who is the Women and Child Development minister. Her ministry is fast becoming controversy’s favourite child.

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The main issue dogging Maneka Gandhi’s ministry currently is her quixotic and draconian idea of policing social media for “trolling”. Further, her ministry’s dealings on social media aspects themselves seem very problematic.

Yesterday, Minister Maneka Gandhi tweeted from her official handle, an undated clarification on the social media handling of her ministry. The crux was: A selection committee had shortlisted an agency, but when the file reached her, she rejected the idea of hiring people from outside:

The puzzling part is, a letter dated 22nd September 2015, almost a year before, was already making the rounds on the internet, which clearly showed the WCD ministry hiring a social media agency for precisely this work!

Deleted letter

The letter completely contradicted the minister’s stance on the hiring of the agency, and within minutes of Maneka’s tweet, the letter was deleted from the official site.

As if that wasn’t enough, we go back to the idea of social media patrolling. It was revealed via RTI that the ministry had in fact hired 2 consultants for regulating social media trolling. Is it the job of this ministry to act as a cop on social media?

But the next bit of news is perhaps the most startling. We already revealed how the Textile Minister Irani was subjected to a farcical hit-job last week. The hit-job claimed that Irani had purchased items worth Rs 8 lacs from the Cottage Industry Corporation and had made her secretary charge the bill to the Government. This apparently led to a souring of relationship between the two. Luckily the truth was revealed when the Cottage Industry Corporation revealed that no such purchase had every taken place, hence the entire story was fabricated. HRD Ministry too issued swift clarifications.

In all this, the role of a few individuals is key:

Rajdeep Sardesai, first tweeted about this news (time-stamps suggest he tweeted this even before the media house published their story), without naming Irani. He later deleted it, but before he could delete it, self-declared “image-guru” Dilip Cherian quoted the same tweet attempting to fan the fire. This tweet was then quoted by an abusive and lying journalist, Swati Chaturvedi, where she claimed that “secretary in the ministry has asked for another posting”. Readers may note that this is the same journalist whom we had recently exposed for her lies, and who had then in revenge, attacked our co-founder and had demanded he be sacked by his employer.

How do these events have a relation? Rajdeep Sardesai has been often thrashed by Smriti Irani online, for his lies. Dilip Cherian is the co-founder of the social media agency “Perfect Relations” which, as per one letter was hired by Maneka Gandhi’s ministry, and as per another, was not hired. Chaturvedi is rumoured to be close to Maneka Gandhi and she has defended the ludicrous social media policing proposal vehemently.

What makes matters worse is a tweet series by Twitter User  which claims two things:

A. In May 2016, the Textile Ministry (then not under Smriti Irani) had signed an MoU with NDTV, which was “cancelled” after social media outrage.  claims this was never cancelled. The textile secretary is said to have sent a false compliance report to the PMO, and this was apparently noticed by the new minister Irani, who has now reported this to the PMO, which is livid.

B. Within days of the above report going to the PMO, the fake Rs 8 lakhs hit-job on Smriti Irani was published, and this was done, according to , at the behest of “a PR firm hired by another ministry”. As we mentioned above, the fake story claimed relations between the secretary and the minister had soured because of the Irani’s fault. This was further perpetuated by the likes of Chaturvedi.

Is there a thread emerging here? Individuals close to Women and Child Minister, from a PR firm which was hired by the ministry, allegedly spreading a fake story against another minister, which is completely untrue? And in all this, a secretary also gets a defence.

What could be the reason you ask? Read the introduction again. Smriti Irani and Varun Gandhi are two of the contenders for UP form BJP. Make of it what you want but this matter is just hotting up.

co-founder, OpIndia.com

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