A war of words broke out between the BJP and the Congress over Rahul Gandhi's rising popularity on Twitter after news agency ANI suggested 'bots' or web robots that can produce automated mass retweets were behind it.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani took to the microblogging website to suggest that the retweets were from fake accounts abroad.
"Perhaps @OfficeOfRG planning to sweep polls in Russia, Indonesia & Kazakhstan ?? #RahulWaveInKazakh," she said in a tweet which tagged the media report.
Questioning whether automated bots were mass retweeting Gandhi's tweets, the report said that on October 15, 'OfficeofRG' retweeted US President Donald Trump's tweet praising American-Pakistani relations with a caption 'Modi ji quick, looks like President Trump needs another hug'.
Modi ji quick; looks like President Trump needs another hug pic.twitter.com/B4001yw5rg— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) October 15, 2017
The tweet quickly reached 20,000 retweets and currently has touched 30,000, the report claimed, adding a close analysis of this tweet showed that these alleged 'bots' with a Russian, Kazakh or Indonesian characteristic were routinely retweeting the Congress vice president's tweets.
An Internet bot is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet.
However, the veracity of report could not be independently ascertained.
Rajeev Shukla, Congress Rajya Sabha MP and Gandhi family loyalist, jumped to the party vice president's defence, saying social media connects the whole world and retweets originating from Russia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia should not be considered out of place.
"They (the BJP) are afraid of Rahul Gandhi and his popularity," he told TV channels.
Another Congress leader and former Union minister RPN Singh said it is unimportant how many times a tweet has been retweeted. He said what is important is the issues Rahul Gandhi has been highlighting through his tweets.
"BJP is not answering...Where is the chowkidar? Why is he not speaking about how the turnover of a company owned by Shahzada's son rose 16,000 times in a year. Why are they not answering...Why are they not answering questions raised by him (Gandhi) about farmers? Why?" Singh said.
He was referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "silence" on a web portal's report that the turnover of a company owned by Jay Shah, BJP chief Amit Shah's son rose exponentially after the party came to power at the Centre in 2014. Jay Shah has filed a criminal defamation case against the portal--The Wire.
He rejected the news agency's claims that 'bots' were behind the perceived rise in Gandhi's popularity on Twitter.
"There is nothing like that," he said.
Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore tweeted: "In sports, this would come under ?Doping?.... hey wait!??does ?dope? remind you of someone ??"
In sports, this would come under ‘Doping’.... hey wait!🤔does ‘dope’ remind you of someone 😄 https://t.co/xulfk1ENtI— Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) October 21, 2017
Amit Malviya, the head of the BJP's IT cell, asked a TV news channel why the Congress has to "buy" support for Rahul Gandhi.
Irani also retweeted the reactions of other netizens, including Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar who tweeted, "Desperate times call for desperate measures ?".
Desperate times call for desperate measures ? 😄😄 https://t.co/MkPa2glDmi— Rajeev Chandrasekhar (@rajeev_mp) October 21, 2017