Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge of the government in May 2014, he’s come under fire for promoting lynch mob mentality not just on the ground but also on social media.
There have been countless instances when official Twitter handles of key government departments have been used seemingly by BJP supporters, hired as social media consultants, to settle petty political scores. The latest case is involving the official Twitter handle of the Defence Ministry Spokesperson, who launched a personal attack on a former Chief of Naval Staff on Twitter.
This was after Admiral (Retired) Arun Prakash questioned on Twitter the use of the Army Command’s insignia by a civilian after someone on the microblogging site drew his attention to a photo. Adm Prakash wrote, “Even if misuse of an Army Command’s insignia by a civilian is not a cognizable offence, the person needs to be reprimanded by the GOCinC whose ‘Financial Adviser’ he is.”
His tweet did not go down well with the Defence Ministry Spokesperson, who launched a foul-mouthed tirade against the former naval chief of India. Defence Spokesperson tweeted from its official Twitter handle, “What about misuse of jawans in your residence during an officer’s tenure sir? And how about children being picked up and dropped to school in Fauji gaadis? Not to forget Madam’s shopping expedition on government vehicles. And endless parties…who pays for that?”
This tweet evoked plenty of angry reactions with BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP and the founder of Republic TV, demanded action against the individual managing the Twitter handle of Defence Spokesperson. Tagging PMO, Chandrsekhar wrote, “Dear @DefenceMinIndia @DrSubhashMoS – who is this “Defence spokesperson” who reprsnts MoD ie govt n talks like this ? This is unacceptable conduct n I wud rqst an enquiry into this. This is unconscionable, disrespectful n arrogance tht behooves a response. @PMOIndia.”
— Rajeev Chandrasekhar (@rajeev_mp) October 26, 2018
Similar reactions from others on social media.
Not the first time an official handle has gone rogue. https://t.co/UOMzzCQ5lA
— Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) October 26, 2018
— Jugal R Purohit (@jugalrp) October 26, 2018
What a shameful reply to a former Naval Chief by the Spokesperson of Ministry of Defence. And the government claims they are for the armed forces. pic.twitter.com/xx1Pd1dhWr
— Vasu (@vasudevan_k) October 26, 2018
Faced with considerable backlash, the Defence Spokesperson quickly issued an apology and wrote, “The tweet was inadvertently done and the same is deeply regretted please.”
The tweet was inadvertently done and the same is deeply regretted please.
— Defence Spokesperson (@SpokespersonMoD) October 26, 2018
In 2016, the rail ministry’s official Twitter hand had retweeted a post critical of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after he criticised the ministry’s decision to introduce flexi-fare in ticket prices.
In July the same year, Modi’s pet initiative Start Up India had shared two hateful messages tweeted by right-wing trolls. Both hateful messages were shared by the official Twitter handle of Start Up India.
Last year, the Delhi Airport came under fire after some users detected a politically biased tweet targeting Congress party. The tweet by Delhi Airport was in response to a known Hindutva Twitter troll, who had posted, “The Congress is not the enemy of BJP. It’s the enemy of India.” To which, the verified Twitter handle of Delhi Airport wrote, “Without Doubts.”
The latest example, coupled with Modi’s decision to follow some of the vicious and abusive trolls on Twitter shows just how insane the country has become under the current prime minister’s rule.