MUMBAI: A dozen names have come to the fore during a probe into the alleged role of the BJP IT cell in tweets posted by Indian celebrities in response to comments by some global figures on the farmer protest, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said in the Assembly on Tuesday.
Deshmukh maintained the probe was not directed at the tweets by Indian celebrities as he engaged in a war of words with Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP on the issue in the Assembly.
Fadnavis suggested the Shiv Sena-led MVA government was trying to probe icons like Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar over their pro-India tweets issued after some foreign figures posted on-line comments supporting the ongoing protest outside Delhi against the Centre's new farm laws.
Deshmukh promptly refuted the charge, saying the state government had ordered a probe into tweets by the BJP's IT cell and not by cricketer Tendulkar and legendary singer Mangeshkar.
"I did not make any statement about (probing) honourable Tendulkar or Mangeshkar. I did not speak about probing Tendulkar or Mangeshkar. I had talked about probing the IT cell of a political party, which I am not naming."
"It was probed. Names of 12 persons have come to the fore in this connection and further action is being taken against them," said Deshmukh.
The NCP minister later said in the House that the IT cell concerned is of the BJP.
On February 8, Deshmukh said the state intelligence department will conduct a probe into allegations that some celebrities were pressurised into issuing tweets in connection with the ongoing farmers' protest.
Deshmukh had made the remarks on an online platform after Congress, a ruling coalition partner in Maharashtra, sought an investigation into the BJP's alleged connection with the tweets of some celebrities and whether the saffron party "arm-twisted" them.
A number of prominent personalities, including Tendulkar and Mangeshkar, had rallied around the central government on social media using hashtags #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.
This came after tweets by American pop star Rihanna and teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg backing farmers who are protesting against the three agri-marketing laws enacted by the Centre in September last year.
Fadnavis said in the Assembly on Tuesday that Tendulkar and Mangeshkar had tweeted that "India is against propaganda" and "India stands united".
"Is it wrong to say in this country that 'India stands united'? Someone gets up, complains to the home minister," the former chief minister said and asked Deshmukh to think well before entertaining such complaints.
Countering Deshmukh, Fadnavis said he will feel proud if he asks anyone to tweet for the country.
"Let's assume for a minute that I asked them to do so (issue tweets). What offence did I commit? What offence have I committed if I asked celebrities to side with the country if there is propaganda going on against it?" the senior BJP legislator sought to know.