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TMC’s Saket Gokhale spreads fake report claiming ₹30 crore was spent on PM’s Morbi visit citing ‘RTI response’ that does not exist

Gujarat Samachar has denied publishing any report on any RTI reply saying that ₹30 crore was spent for Morbi visit of PM Modi after the bridge collapse

Former ‘RTI activist’ and current Trinamool Congress leader Saket Gokhale has been caught sharing a fabricated news report about an RTI query and its response that does not exist. He had claimed that ₹30 crore was spent on PM Modi’s Morbi visit, sharing a news clipping from an unnamed Gujarati newspaper, which was claimed to be Gujarat Samachar. But BJP has said that it is fabricated and no such report was published and there is no such RTI reply, and Gujarat Samachar has also said that they have not published such a report.

On December 1, 2022, TMC spokesperson Saket Gokhale claimed that ₹30 crore were spent on arrangements for PM Modi’s visit to Morbi in Gujarat after the bridge collapse tragedy. Gokhale posted a clipping of a Gujarati newspaper on Twitter which claimed that an RTI reply has said that ₹30 crore was spent for the visit of the PM to Morbi for just few hours.

Citing the so-called report, Gokhale claimed that ₹ 5.5 crore was purely for “welcome, event management, & photography”. He also claimed that “Modi’s event management & PR costs more than life of 135 people”, as the families of the 135 victims of the tragedy were given ex-gratia of ₹4 lakh each, totalling ₹5 crore.

Saket Gokhale was not alone to post this news, before him a Twitter user named Dax Patel had posted the same clipping yesterday. The alleged news report said that this was revealed by Morbi district collector’s office on an RTI query by one Deepak Patel. Giving the break-up of the alleged expense, the report claimed that ₹8 crore was spent on hospital’s painting, cleaning, new beds and water cooler, ₹11 crore for new roads, ₹3 crore for PM Modi’s welcome, ₹2.5 crore for the PM’s security, ₹2 crore for event management and ₹50 lakh for photography.

Many other Twitter users subsequently shared the clipping from their own accounts making the same claim.

However, BJP Gujarat has said that this is fake news, and no such RTI was filed and no such reply to any RTI was given. BJP Gujarat also posted on Twitter that the new clipping is fabricated, and actually no such report was published anywhere.

“TMC is a party of liars. It starts from @MamataOfficial   to lowly spokespersons like you,” Gujarat BJP said, tagging TMC chief Mamata Banerjee.

West Bengal BJP also said the same thing, saying that Gokhale is spreading fake news and there is no such report and no such RTI reply.

Several other social media users also expressed doubt about the clipping and said that it is fake.

Notably, no such Gujarati report could be found while searching online. However, many regional newspapers do not have an online presence, and some only publish images of their printed papers as epapers, which means they can’t be searched. But the Gujarati news clipping that Gokhale shared does not bear the name of the newspaper and the date of the report, making it difficult to locate the ‘report’ and verify it.

However, Dax Patel, who had originally posted the clipping, claimed that it is from Gujarat Samachar. Replying to a Twitter user asking for the name of the newspaper and the link to the report, Dax Patel replied by saying just ‘Gujarat samachar’, without any link.

As no such link was given, OpIndia tried to locate the news report on the Gujarat Samachar website, but could not find it. We went through the epaper versions of Gujarat Samachar for the entire last week, but no such report was spotted in the newspaper.

After that, OpIndia team talked with the web department of Gujarat Samachar to know if the clipping is indeed from their newspaper. They categorically said that no such report has been published by them. They said that although the clipping looks like Gujarat Samachar, they did not publish it.

It is notable that while the font and layout of the clipping are similar to Gujarat Samachar, the format of the ‘report’ does not match with actual reports. Gujarat Samachar always prints the date or day, the name of the city and the source of the report at the beginning of the report, and these are absent from the clipping.

OpIndia team also talked to some residents of Morbi to inquire about the ‘RTI activist Deepak Patel’ mentioned in the so-called report, but nobody has heard of such a person.

Therefore, the claim of the BJP that this is a fabricated report seems to be true. As no such report of any RTI response was found, the news clipping seems to be fake and fabricated made to look like Gujarat Samachar, and people from Gujarat Samachar said that it was not printed by their paper.

OpIndia has contacted Morbi Collectors office and the Information department of the Gujarat department seeking more information about the matter and whether such an RTI reply was issued, and the report will be updated once responses are received.

Update: PIB fact check calls it fake

Later, PIB Fact Check posted a tweet saying that the claim made by Saket Gokhale is fake.

PIB Fact Check posted a tweet saying that the claim that ₹30 crore was spent on PM Modi’s visit to Morbi is fake. They also added that no such RTI response has been given. This assertion by PIB Fact Check makes it clear that the ‘news clipping’ is also fake, and it was fabricated to defame PM Modi and BJP ahead of the Gujarat elections.

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Raju Das
Raju Das
Corporate Dropout, Freelance Translator

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