Fact-check: BJP leaders share puff piece replete with misinformation to defend PM Modi's efforts to tackle Covid-19 crisis

Last Updated : 13 May 2021, 09:07 IST

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An article exalting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic made a sudden appearance on the Twitter timelines of BJP leaders. “PM Modi has been working hard; don’t get trapped in the opposition barbs,” read its headline in all capitals.

The article was shared by BJP IT Cell Head Amit Malviya, Minister of State in the Ministry of Minority Affairs Kiren Rijiju, BJP MP Dr Jitendra Singh who holds multiple ministries, Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kishan Reddy, Minister of Coal, Mines and Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi, BJP MP Narendra Keshav Sawaikar, former Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das and former BJP MLA Archana Chitnis.

The entire piece argues how the Prime Minister is working his best, in silence, for the betterment of the country, how Chief Ministers have been acting like ‘crybabies’, how the previous Congress government did little to build strong healthcare infrastructure and how PM Modi’s critics have been trying to paint a negative image of the Prime Minister.

The story was published on a never-heard-of-before outlet The Daily Guardian that closely resembles the name The Guardian but isn’t associated with the UK daily.

Article authored by a member of BJP’s national media team

While the word Guardian in the outlet’s name might fool some readers into believing that an international publication praised the Indian Prime Minister in an over 2,700-word piece, the article was penned by Sudesh Verma who is the convenor of the Media Relations Department of the BJP. He also represents the party as a spokesperson in TV debates.

Verma tries to hold everyone except the Prime Minister accountable for the mismanagement of the healthcare crisis in India due to Covid-19. “No one in the world had expected that the second wave would be so pervasive. Everyone thought this would be less severe. Can we blame Modi for this?” asks Verma. But a forum of scientific advisors set up by the government itself had in early March warned of a huge spike in infections. The warnings were ignored.

“We should not forget that till Atal Bihari Vajpayee became Prime Minister, there had been only one AIIMS set up in 1952. It was Vajpayee who decided to open six AIIMS…Learning from Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister opened one AIIMS in Uttar Pradesh at Rae Bareli in 2013. When Narendra Modi came to power, he decided to open 14 AIIMS to cover the entire country,” the article further says, omitting the fact that the six AIIMS announced in Vajpayee’s term were inaugurated during Manmohan Singh’s tenure. Furthermore, none of the 15 AIIMS announced by PM Modi are fully operational. They are either partially functional or in different stages of construction.

“Nobody had problems with other parties and their leaders campaigning but critics had problems with the Prime Minister. You don’t create a different norm for the PM. And he did cancel his meeting towards the last leg of campaigning in West Bengal. BJP leaders including Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah cancelled all their election visits to the poll-bound state of West Bengal.” Below is PM Modi’s speech in Asansol where he said that he has never seen such a huge crowd before. “Wherever I turn, I see people,” said an unmasked Prime Minister on April 17 when the country recorded over 2.6 lakh daily Covid-19 cases.

Five days later, PM Modi decided to not attend election rallies in West Bengal. This was after the state witnessed its highest surge in cases since the pandemic began. Verma conveniently hailed PM Modi for cancelling his visit in the last legs of the campaigning but did not deem it appropriate to inform that the rallies were still being held on the ground with the PM’s virtual presence.

“Why was Kumbh Mela allowed to take place in Haridwar? It could have been cancelled. It was for the state government to decide whether it was feasible to organise such a large mela and yet follow Covid protocol…The Prime Minister did appeal to people and seers to make the mela symbolic,” the article says. But this too is a misrepresentation of facts. PM Modi had said that Kumbh Mela should be made symbolic on April 18. This was nine days after Haridwar hosted lakhs of pilgrims. Kumbh Mela advertisements were published in nearly every newspaper featuring the Prime Minister’s photograph. “A hearty welcome to all devotees,” said the advertisement.

A recent report in The Caravan revealed that ex-Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivdenra Singh Rawat was fired overnight by the BJP for insisting that the Kumbh Mela should be restricted. It was Rawat who suggested that a symbolic festival should be held keeping Covid-19 in mind. However, not only was Kumbh Mela held but it was also advanced by one year based on the reading of astrological charts by jyotishs and tantriks.

The Daily Guardian is owned by ITV Network

The Daily Guardian was launched by ITV Network in February this year. ITV Network is the parent company of NewsX.

NewsX had aired Haryana BJP President’s congratulatory note to journalists of The Daily Guardian on the launch of the newspaper.

Despite being a three-month-old venture, The Daily Guardian published an ‘exclusive’ interview with Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari where the BJP leader said that the Covid-19 crisis could be a “blessing in disguise” to attract FDI in India.

Apart from several pro-Modi pieces, the outlet has also published an absurd article where the author asks people to stop worrying and have faith in the government. “Dear sir, the government is yours, so have faith. And if you don’t, what will happen, you know? It will increase negativity, further adding to the fear and anxiety,” says the piece, adorning the homepage of The Daily Guardian website. Its headline – ‘Be cheerful to produce antibodies’ – is repeated twice. There are also grammatical and formatting errors inside the article.

Utpal Kumar is the Executive Editor of The Daily Guardian.

A member of BJP’s Media Relations Department penned an 'opinion' piece, replete with misinformation, on Prime Minister Modi’s contribution to India’s healthcare system. This was published in the newly launched The Daily Guardian, owned by ITV Network. A plethora of BJP leaders then shared the article as evidence that the PM has been working overtime for the upliftment of the country during the Covid-19 crisis. This isn’t the first time that an article celebrating PM Modi has made headlines. An obscure website British Herald declared PM Modi the winner of a readers’ poll on ‘who is the world’s most powerful leader’ in 2019. Despite its name, an Indian businessman owned the website.

Published 11 May 2021, 16:43 IST

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