Did BJP’s IT Cell deliberately post graphs on fuel price rise to embarrass PM Narendra Modi?

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On Monday, as many as 21 non-BJP parties came together to launch countrywide protests against the Centre’s Narendra Modi government for its inability to check the alarming rise in fuel prices and rapid depreciation of the Indian rupee against the US dollar.

Narendra Modi

The protests called by the opposition parties coincided with the news of the Indian rupee nosediving to a historic low at 72.18 against the US dollar. On the fuel prices front too, there was bad news for consumers as petrol prices increased to an all-time high at Rs 80.73 per litre in Delhi while prices of diesel per litre reached Rs 72.83/litre. In Mumbai, where petroleum products were already the most expensive in the country, prices of petrol per litre increased to Rs 88.12/litre, while diesel reached Rs 77.32 per litre.

Faced with country-wide protests and more unfavourable news on oil prices and the value of the rupee, one would have expected the central government, led by the BJP to refrain from arrogance.

But, the BJP on Monday remained true to its much-touted claim that it was after all a political outfit with a difference. It’s so different that even its actions are these days defying common sense and human logic.

How else can one justify the statement made by a key BJP minister from Rajasthan, Rajkumar Rinwa, who blamed the ordinary public for not adjusting their requirements in the face of rising fuel prices. Rinawa said, “Fuel prices are tied to crude oil prices in the world market. The government is working hard to bring down the prices. There is so much expenditure, floods all over, and consumption…public don’t understand that if crude prices are high, they should reduce their other expenses.”

As expected, Rinwa was widely condemned with many linking his perceived irrational statements to the sign of the BJP government’s imminent departure in the next assembly elections.

But, this wasn’t the only instance of arrogance displayed by the BJP on Monday. An even bigger shocker came from the party’s official Twitter handle, which has more than one crore followers. It posted a comparative graph in a bid to justify the rapidly increasing prices of diesel and petrol in India. Whilst it conceded that the Modi government had failed to check the fuel price rise, its graph showed how the ‘percentages’ of hike in prices of diesel and petrol were less during the BJP government as compared to that during the previous UPA government.

Its tweet, however, did not add that bringing down the prices of petrol and diesel was one of the key poll promises of Modi and his rich friends, who sponsored his 7-star election campaign in 2014. Who can forget the famous slogan ‘Bahut hui mehngaayi ki maar, ab ki baar Modi sarkar?” Remember the famous interview of one of Modi’s key poll financiers, Ramdev, on India TV, where he thundered, “Do you want a government (UPA) that makes you buy petrol for Rs 75 to Rs 80 per litre or the one (led by Modi) which gives you petrol for Rs 35 per litre?” As expected, the crowd in the studio of India TV responded in favour of replacing the then government led by the Congress.

On Monday, minutes after the BJP’s IT Cell posted the ill-fated tweet, the microblogging site was flooded with memes and reactions filled with shock.

The Congress, which has lately reclaimed the social media space from the BJP and has learnt the art of exploiting the platform counter rival propaganda, moved in with lightening speed to slightly modify the graph, posted by the BJP. While posting the modified chart on fuel price rise, the Congress wrote, “There! Fixed it for you @BJP4India #MehangiPadiModiSarkar.”

In its chart, the Congress also added the global prices of crude oil against the hike in retail market in India for each period. It clearly showed that when petrol was being sold at Rs 71.41 per litre in India in May 2014, before Modi became the prime minister, crude oil in the international market was $ 107 per barrel. However, when the petrol prices reached a record low at Rs 80.73 per litre on Monday, the crude oil was being sold at $ 71 per barrel.

So in percentage terms, the retail price of petrol per litre had gone up by 13% under the Modi government even though crude oil prices fell by 34% in the international market.

This led many to suspect if the BJP’s social media department had deliberately posted a tweet to further embarrass an already beleaguered prime minister just months before he seeks re-election to office.

Many on social media suspected that some within the BJP have begun to silently plot the ouster of Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah. Quite a few commentators felt that the hubris of Modi and Shah coupled with their refusal to reassess the political reality of the country are making many BJP MPs including some senior ministers increasingly uncomfortable. Monday’s tweet heaping embarrassment on Modi may have been a deliberate attempt to weaken him before the Lok Sabha polls.

 

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