Maharashtra government will investigate into the allegations that several celebrities including Bharat Ratna awardees Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar were forced to tweet over ongoing farmers' protest, State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said on Monday.
Deshmukh said the investigation was ordered on a complaint by Congress, a partner in the ruling coalition, stating that there is an alleged connection with the tweets of several celebrities issued after pop sensation Rihanna, adult film star Mia Khalifa, climate activist Greta Thunberg, and other international personalities came out in support of farmers protesting on the borders of Delhi. The Congress alleged that the BJP "arm-twisted" them to tweet, calling for "unity" over farmers' protest.
Probe in Central Govt-led campaign
Many prominent personalities including cricket icon Sachin Tendukar, music legend Lata Mangeshkar, actor Akshay Kumar recently supported the Central government on social media using hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda. The same hashtags were used heavily on social media platforms after the Ministry of External Affairs launched an online campaign using the same hashtags.
After an online meeting with Deshmukh, Congress leader Sachin Sawant tweeted: "Demanded investigation of BJP connection into the tweets of celebrities & security to be provided to our national heroes if needed & find out whether these celebrities were arm-twisted by BJP."
Akshay Kumar, Saina Nehwal posted same tweets
Responding on the matter, the state home minister said the government will investigate whether they were issued under pressure, and noted that tweets of actor Akshay Kumar and badminton player Saina Nehwal were similar.
Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let’s support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences. ??#IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda pic.twitter.com/FhclAMLiik— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) February 3, 2021
Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let’s support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences. ??#IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda https://t.co/LgAn6tIwWp— Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar) February 3, 2021
"You may have seen what kind of pressure is there on the media, how a politician is threatened with ED or CBI probe if he/she speaks against the BJP. We have all seen this. As far as your objection (about celebrities' tweets) is concerned, we will definitely probe into those. Our intelligence agency will probe it," Deshmukh said.
The minister said that cricketer Virat Kohli and Lata Mangeshkar both used the word 'Amicable' which hints that the tweets were planned. He also said that actor Suniel Shetty even tagged BJP leader Hitesh Jain in his tweet using the same hashtags.
Last week, the farmers' protest drew international attention after Rihanna tweeted a new article with caption -- "why are not we talking about this?"
Congress leader Sachin Sawant pointed out that stars like Sachin Tendulkar or Lata Mangeshkar never even expressed grief on anybody's death "but suddenly started tweeting in support of the government".
"We are not questioning anybody's freedom of expression but the pattern of tweets suggests that the Modi government even pressurized these Bharat Ratnas," he said.
BJP slams Maharashtra government
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition in State Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis slammed the Maha Aghadi government's decision as "disgusting and highly deplorable". "Disgusting and highly deplorable. Where is your Marathi Pride now? Where is your Maharashtra Dharma? We will never find such 'ratnas' (gems) in the entire Nation who order probes against Bharat Ratnas who always stand strong in one voice for our Nation," the BJP leader tweeted.
He further said, "Has this MVA Govt lost all it's senses? MVA should feel ashamed while using the word 'probe' for Bharat Ratnas. Actually, now it seems necessary to probe the mental state & stability of the ones who made such demand & of people who ordered probe against our Bharat Ratnas".
On February 6, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray said that the Central government should not have used the Bharat Ratna awardees for its campaign, saying that actors like Akshay Kumar were fine for the job.
"Central government shouldn't have asked big personalities like Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar to tweet in support of its stand and put their reputation at stake. They're recipients of Bharat Ratna. Actors like Akshay Kumar were enough for this task," he said.