After the Delhi Police’s Special Cell pulled up Twitter India for classifying a tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on an alleged Covid-19 toolkit as “manipulated media”, and also visited its offices in Lado Sarai in Delhi and Gurgaon, the parliamentary standing committee on information technology witnessed fireworks as the BJP and the Congress faced off accusing each other ‘misusing power’.
Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor, who also heads the panel, reportedly shot off a letter to Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad slamming the move against the microblogging site.
BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who is a member of the committee, wrote a counter letter to the Lok Sabha Speaker accusing Tharoor of ‘misusing’ his official position as chairperson of the committee to ‘tarnish’ the image of the Union government as well as the Parliament ‘by raising issues that are outside the purview of the parliamentary committee’. Dubey, in his letter to Om Birla, has demanded Tharoor’s removal as IT committee chairman.
An excerpt of the Godda MP’s missive, accessed by CNN-News18 has exclusively, reads, “ The Standing Committee is the extension of the parliament but Shashi Tharoor has made this committee an extension of the Congress Party where he is more concerned about his parties and Rahul Gandhi’s agenda than the nation itself. Recently, on the Twitter toolkit controversy, he is asking for explanations from the Ministry of Information and Technology when Twitter’s action is against this nation’s IT law. Standing committee can neither persuade the actions taken by the government nor can it persuade day to day working of the government.”
An infuriated Dubey also sought Tharoor’s sacking as a Lok Sabha MP.
This is not the first time that the two MPs have been locked in a battle with each other. Right from opposing the discussion on resuming 4G services in J&K to the issue of banning Chinese apps and the Facebook controversy surrounding the WSJ report, there have been plenty of fireworks both inside as well as out of the IT Committee meetings in the last 2years.
The Toolkit case
The BJP has been accusing the Congress of creating a ‘toolkit’ that seeks to tarnish the image of the country and Prime Minister Narendra Modi by calling the new strain of coronavirus “India strain” or “Modi strain”.
Last week, Twitter had labelled as “manipulated media” a tweet by Patra on the alleged ‘toolkit’. Twitter said it “may label Tweets that include media (videos, audio, and images) that have been deceptively altered or fabricated”.
The Delhi police notice sent to Twitter India MD states that “whereas a preliminary enquiry is being conducted pertaining to the ‘Toolkit’ which is allegedly released by the Indian National Congress and whereas during the course of the investigation, it has come to our knowledge that you are acquainted with the facts of the matter and are in possession of information with regard to the same.”
The government had earlier asked Twitter to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tag as the matter is pending before law enforcement agency, and made it clear that the social media platform cannot pass judgment when the issue is under investigation.
BJP leaders, including Patra, have posted numerous tweets to attack Congress over the purported ‘toolkit’. On May 19, the Congress lodged a police complaint seeking registration of cases against BJP chief J P Nadda, Union minister Smriti Irani, BJP general secretary B L Santosh and Patra over the alleged forgery of documents.