The Maharashtra Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh, took to Twitter on the 29th of July to openly ask the Mumbai Police to ‘monitor’ BJP WhatsApp groups. In a tweet posted by the NCP leader, he wrote, “Please keep a close tab on WhatsApp groups if they are in use to mislead people & spread rumors”.
There is no harm in connecting with citizens over #WhatsApp & I am hopeful that this #campaign will not result in #WhatsAppUniversity. @MahaCyber1 Please keep a close tab on WhatsApp groups if they are in use to mislead people & spread rumors.https://t.co/awl5WYyIB7— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) July 29, 2020
In his tweet, he had linked a Jansatta news report that spoke about BJP launching a campaign to connect with the voters in Maharashtra over WhatsApp. Quoting the news report, Deshmukh said, “There is no harm in connecting with citizens over #WhatsApp & I am hopeful that this #campaign will not result in #WhatsAppUniversity. @MahaCyber1 Please keep a close tab on WhatsApp groups if they are in use to mislead people & spread rumors”.
“WhatsApp university” is a pejorative term used by many in the Left and by several members of the opposition parties to essentially further the trope that the BJP often spreads fake news and derives its knowledge from fallacious WhatsApp forwards.
Maharashtra BJP’s WhatsApp campaign to connect with Maharashtra voters
BJP’s state unit in Maharashtra is planning to link one-and-half crore voters by forming groups on WhatsApp. In a virtual address from Delhi, on the 27th, BJP President JP Nadda had told his Karyakartas to strengthen its IT cell and expose the Uddhav Thackeray-led state government’s failure.
“We should strengthen the BJP’s state IT cell and expose the state governments failure, without sparing the chief minister,” he said.
According to a report in the Deccan Chronicle, JP Nadda noted that BJP Maharashtra has formed 67,000 WhatsApp groups in the state and that these groups should be used to expose the inadequacies of the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP alliance government in the state.
“Share Prime Minister Narendra Modis speeches and clippings, create content on the Centres achievements and expose the state governments failures effectively. We need to give political content to our local party workers,” he reportedly said.
In the recent past, Shiv Sena has been ruthless in cracking down on political opponents and those who choose not to toe their line in the state. This recent diktat by Anil Deshmukh seems to be another step in that direction.