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Saket Gokhale: The journey from being the star of Modi haters to being accused of misusing their funds

Modi haters who donated to Saket Gokhale are asking him to give details of how he spent the money he raised through fundraising campaigns

Once a blue-eyed boy of the Left-wing ecosystem, RTI activist Saket Gokhale seems to have fallen from grace. The Congress loyalist-turned-TMC member has come under public scrutiny for misappropriation of funds that he collected in the name of Modi hatred.

On Thursday (December 30, 2021), poet and writer Hussain Haidry raised the issue, demanding accountability from Saket Gokhale on the utilisation of funds collected through fundraising campaigns. But despite several donors and social media users demanding the details of the utilisation of the funds, he had refused to provide the same.

Hussain Haidry has demanded that Saket Gokhale give the details of how he spent the money he raised through fundraising campaigns. He said that hundreds and thousands of people, especially Muslims, have donated to Gokhale in the last 2-3 years in small amounts, but no stupendous work has been done by him. Haidry received widespread support on Twitter demanding answers from Saket Gokhale.

It is interesting to note that Saket Gokhale himself had said that he is a full-time activist, and therefore the amount collected helps pay his expenses. He had also claimed that he ropes in more people, and their expenses are also paid from the donation money.

In February 2020 itself, social media users had calculated that Saket Gokhale had collected ₹22.8 lakhs through his OurDemocracy fundraiser, and he had agreed with the amount. The fundraiser was open and for months, the donations kept coming.

In June this year, a Twitter user by the handle @thehawkeye had shared that Gokhale has collected over 76 lakhs over 17 months, making approximately 4.4 lakhs per month.

Saket Gokhale’s wild conspiracy theories and fake claims were fanned by the Leftist media and ecosystem

Amidst the anti-CAA protests in January 2020, Gokhale had claimed that the Delhi Police granted him permission to hold a rally and chant “Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko.” The RTI activist did not exhibit any proof or approval letter by the Delhi police that could substantiate his claims.

He later made amends to his insidious claims and alleged that the police requested him to re-schedule his protest after February 8 that year in light of the Model Code of Conduct.

Without verifying the details of the case, left-wing propaganda site The Wire, and Congress mouthpiece National Herald published his claims to suggest that Delhi police found nothing objectionable with the slogans. Forced by circumstances, the Delhi police took to Twitter to expose the lie being peddled by Gokhale.

Screengrab of the tweet

While dubbing the claims as baseless and false, the DCP New Delhi said, “It is hereby clarified that no permission to hold a protest on 02.02.2020 has been given to Sh. Saket Gokhale. A copy of his request letter is being circulated in the social media as permission, which is not the case.”

In June 2020, Saket Gokhale had peddled wild conspiracy theories about a ‘ventilator scam’ after the first batch of ventilators procured using the PM CARES fund was made available to hospitals. In a seven-part thread, Gokhale alleged that ₹750+ crore had gone ‘missing’ from the funds allotted for procuring ventilators under the PM CARES fund.

Soon, other Congress minions spread the same as gospel truth and claimed how there’s a ‘ventilator scam’ underway. All the fake claims were then debunked by the CMD of BEL (Bharat Electronic Limited), a professional Defence electronics company in India. In February 2021, BEL filed a ₹1 crore defamation suit against the RTI activist for spreading lies.

On August 14, 2020, the Wall Street Journal had published a report alleging that a senior executive of the social media giant Facebook was allegedly favoring the ruling BJP government. Soon after, Ankhi Das, the public policy director of Facebook, came under attack by the Congress party and its trolls.

Saket Gokhale was one of those who had insinuated that Ankhi Das had links with RSS-affiliated groups. He claimed that Ankhi Das had “attended sessions” of the World Organization of Students & Youth (WOSY), a youth group, which is led by her sister, Rashmi Das. The Congress troll also said that WOSY’s office was located in the same building as an RSS outfit in Delhi.

Screengrab of the press release by WOSY

In a hurry to target Ankhi Das, Gokhale went on to post an image of the WOSY event to claim that the public policy Director of Facebook was attending the event. However, the image was that of Ankhi Das’ twin sister Dr. Rashmi Das. In a statement, WOSY had threatened legal action against Gokhale for peddling misinformation.

It added that Dr. Rashmi Das’ association with WOSY was purely voluntary in nature and aimed to spread the concept of ‘Vasudeva Kuttambakam’ among international students living in India.

In April 2021, he was caught peddling lies to defend the Maharashtra govt’s harassment of Bruck Pharma director over Remdesivir supply. He later complained with Maharashtra Home Minister about how Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis or the BJP, as private players, could obtain a crucial drug when its sale is allowed only to the state government.

The Hinduphobic nature of Saket Gokhale

Ahead of the historic Bhumi Pujan of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya on August 5, 2020, Saket Gokhale had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the Allahabad High Court seeking a stay on the event for alleged violation of Covid-19 protocols.

He had claimed that the Uttar Pradesh government could not allow the event as per the Centre’s guidelines. While Taking to Twitter, Gokhale had said that the ‘Unlock 2.0’ guidelines, issued by the MHA, clearly prohibited religious gatherings of any kind. To his dismay, the Allahabad High Court quashed the plea while observing that the entire petition was filed on the basis of assumptions.

Screengrab of the Allahabad High Court verdict

In July 2020, Gokhale tried to paint the Hindu rights organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in a bad light by concocting a fake story that its members were protesting outside his residence. He had tweeted a video, claiming that RSS workers were chanting Jai Sri Ram outside his house and threatening his mother. He had tagged Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh and Thane Police and requested ‘urgent assistance’.

Although around 7-8 people were heard chanting Jai Sri Ram in the video taken from several floors above the building, they were neither in familiar RSS uniform, nor were they holding any banners/flags of the said organisation. Moreover, the men were on the ground floor, while Saket Gokhale seemed to be living several floors above the ground. It was not clear the men managed to threaten his mother.

Screengrab of the tweet by Saket Gokhale

OpIndia had then talked to Jeetendra Jore, an RSS official in Thane district, about the issue. While dismissing the allegations made by Saket Gokhale, he said that RSS has nothing to do with the incident. He said that SS workers were busy volunteering for Coronavirus, and they had no time to get involved with someone like Gokhale.

In January last year, the RTI activist attempted to cast aspersions on the integrity of the RSS and BJP by claiming that they might be involved in a blast that took place outside the Israeli embassy. Gokhale had claimed that the possibility that the blast was orchestrated by the RSS “couldnot be ignored” and proceeded to say it “most definitely” would be covered up. He appeared to have channeled the hatred-fueled conspiracy-mongering that led the Congress party to invent the ‘Saffron Terror’ bogey.

Screengrab of the tweet by Saket Gokhale

RTI activist had an insatiable urge to stay under the spotlight

Besides peddling fake news and displaying his brazen Hinduphobia on social media, Gokhale never misses the opportunity to stay in limelight by filing frivolous petitions and writing unwarranted letters. In December 2020, he had sought the permission of the Attorney General to file a contempt petition against writer Shefali Vaidya under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

He had alleged that Vaidya made objectionable comments against the country’s judiciary in her tweets, dating back to 2017,2018, and 2019. While posting screenshots of the said tweets, Gokhale had claimed that he was ‘working on an interesting contempt of court petition.’ In her tweets, Shefali Vaidya had criticised the decision of the Supreme Court on banning firecrackers during Diwali.

Gokhale’s cheap stunt at publicity was short-lived as the Attorney General KK Venugopal turned down his request, informing that one cannot initiate any contempt action either suo motu or otherwise after the expiry of one year from the date of the allegedly contumacious conduct under Section 20 of the Act.

In February 2021, the RTI activist wrote to AG seeking sanction for contempt of court proceedings against ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi for comments made during an interview with India Today. Gokhale had cherry-picked comments made by former CJI to insinuate that he had spoken against the credibility of the Indian judicial system. As such, KK Venugopal refused to give his consent for the initiation of contempt proceedings.

Saket Gokhale spearheaded targeted harassment of Opindia, IPS officer

In April 2021, OpIndia columnist Abhishek Banerjee was targeted by journalists and Congress trolls such as Saket Gokhale after they confused him for Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee. Congress stooge Nikhil J Alwa was the frontrunner in attacking Opindia based on an incorrect Whatsapp forward. “OpIndia is now down to writing fake bylines of Nobel Laureates claiming it as “satire”,” Gokhale was quick to follow the footsteps of his Congress master.

Screengrab of the tweet by Saket Gokhale

In a series of tweets in June 2021, Saket Gokhale had alleged that former IFS officer Lakshmi Puri bought a house worth $2.5 million in Switzerland, for which she did not have enough legitimate sources of income. The house was purchased in 2006. Gokhale had claimed that it was declared first by Hardeep Singh Puri in 2017 as a member of the Union cabinet. Lakshmi Puri took a loan of CHF 1.6 million for the house.

As 20% of the loan amount has to be covered by the borrower, Lakshmi Puri had to show an income of CHF 3,00,000, which, according to Gokhale, was not possible as she was drawing Rs 8.4 lakh with Rs 1.4 lakh grade pay as an IFS officer. Coming up with lousy calculations, Gokhale had calculated that the annual income of Lakshmi M Puri would be Rs 10-12 lakh per year. He had also claimed that a down payment of CHF 5,40,000 (Rs. 4.3 crores) must have been made, which according to him, is not possible with the known incomes of the Puris.

In response, Lakshmi M Puri took to Twitter to reply to Gokhale’s allegations and asked him to get his facts right. She informed that while posted at UN, she was getting a tax-free salary as per UN scale, not as per IFS scale. Therefore, she was getting over the US $200,000 per year, which translates to around Rs 1.5 crore at the current exchange rate.

She had said, “Get your facts right, Saket Gokhale & there is no ‘mystery’. I was an International Civil Servant from 2002 to Feb ‘18. Drew a tax free UN salary of over US $200,000 annually when I bought the apartment in Geneva.” She further added, “All facts declared to concerned authorities. Prepare to be sued.”

Gokhale was eventually sued in court, and reprimanded by the Delhi High Court for making defamatory tweets without any due diligence. The court had directed him to delete the tweets against Lakhsmi Puri. The Court has asked, “So any Tom, Dick and Harry can write anything vilification against anyone on the internet”. The RTI activist was then forced to voluntarily delete the contentious tweets.

Accusations of fund embezzlement, misuse of public money in procurement of drugs

In February 2021, allegations of fraud were made against Gokhale by several people, including left liberals. An AAP supporter named Amit Behere had accused Gokhale of wasting money by filing RTIs, which have had absolutely “zero return on investment”. He had alleged that the donations to the Congress loyalist had obtained no results for the common public, except for personal benefit. In 2020, Gokhale had claimed to have collected over ₹ 22 lakhs to take on the ‘BJP hate machine’ and launched a ‘campaign to take down hate-speech mongers’ on social media.

In March 2021, a complaint was lodged with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) against Saket Gokhale by the Legal activist group Legal Rights Observatory (LRO), accusing him of earning drug money through the means of crowdfunding. According to LRO, Saket Gokhale is the son of a former police officer, who was once accused in a drug trafficking case. It is pertinent to note that Saket Gokhale’s father was arrested in 2015 on the charge of protecting drug smugglers. Later, the court had acquitted him as Mumbai Police had no evidence against him.

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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