As the Kisan March in Maharashtra caught the fancy of Social Media, the BJP IT Cell went into panic mode and tried to trend #KisanThanksDevendra. They circulated a 22-page Google document which was a collection of talking points in support of this trend. The document contained the usual — tired talking points of the various schemes announced by the BJP State and Central Govts and trying to cast aspersions at the Kisans’ and Left’s motive behind the March.
When more than 50,000 Farmers led by the All India Kisan Sabha marched from Nashik to Mumbai, the initial response of the Devendra Fadnavis led BJP Govt of Maharashtra was to ignore it. However, as the march neared Mumbai and their numbers swelled, Social Media went berserk about the Kisan March. The hashtag #KisanLongMarch trended the whole day on Twitter on Sunday, March 11th. It was the Number 1 trending hashtag all India on Twitter. This forced the Corporate owned Cable TV channels to cover the March. By Monday morning as hashtag #FarmersMarchToMumbai trended to the top of Indian Twitter space, it was clear that the March had caught the fancy of Urban India. Desperate to change the narrative, BJP went into damage control mode. BJP MP & President Bhartiya Janta Party Yuva Morcha, Poonam Mahajan, went on TV and called the Farmers “Urban Maoists”.
Also, tweets started appearing with the hashtag #KisanThanksDevendra. The BJP Troll Army had clearly been activated.
Typically, such trends are manufactured by the BJP IT Cell in a very organized manner. The BJP IT Cell would circulate a document when it wants to get a topic to trend on Twitter. BJP maintains a large army of online trolls, volunteers and paid trolls, who are then activated. These accounts just copy and paste talking points from such documents. Given the might of BJP’s online organization and their money power, BJP is often successful in trending their agenda on Twitter which often includes fake stories and their hate agenda. AltNews’ Pratik Sinha managed to obtain the document for the trend #KisanThanksDevendra and posted it on Twitter.
However, such is the popularity of the Kisan March amongst India Twitterati that this fake trending campaign failed. The hashtag #FarmersMarchToMumbai which is supportive of the Kisan March continued to trend. Some accounts took this opportunity to take a dig at the BJP.
While Twitter has maintained that they disapprove of such organized attempts to create trends and would penalize accounts which copy and paste tweets en masse, little concrete action has been taken by them in this regard. Given the huge amount of money, political parties, especially the BJP, spend on Social Media platforms like Twitter, this lack of action on their part is not surprising.
After years of false promises and pushing fake News to discredit its opponents and anyone criticizing or protesting their policies, BJP’s credibility is wearing thin. Rural India is seething with discontent as the various Kisan protests in different parts of the country show. Now it appears that Urban Indians are finally catching up to this trend.