India is in the thick of the poll season. And arguably the rumour mills and fake news factories are busy churning out stories, which seem credible for a while, with specific targets in mind. Sometimes, politicians (or their strategists) come up with innovative ideas, such as manufacturing incidents, to make the stories more credible. Is the latest “IT raid” on the family temple of former prime minister Deve Gowda a case in point for this kind of ingenuity?
This is how the story around the “raid” unfolded. Two IT officials swooped down on the residence of Prakash Bhat, the priest in the Shiva Temple at Haradanahalli village in Hassan district. Prakash reportedly told the media that the “sleuths” asked him to show where the cash was kept.
“They said they had information about a huge stash of cash kept in the cartons in my house. And they searched every corner for 40 minutes and returned empty-handed,” he was quoted as saying.
Incidentally, Haradanahalli is the village that JDS supremo HD Deve Gowda hails from. It is said that Lord Shiva (Ishwara) at the temple is his family deity and no important work in the family takes place without first paying obeisance to Ishawara God.
As the news started making rounds, the IT department released a statement denying the raid. “The attention of the Income Tax department in Karnataka-Goa has been drawn to reports in social media that IT officials have checked the house of the family priest and temple of a prominent political leader. No such search/ checking/verification of any sort has been done by the I-T department in Karnataka. It is unfortunate that media persons connected to reputed media houses are spreading such unfounded stories without any attempt at verification,” the statement said.
However, chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, son of Deve Gowda, lost no time picking up the “raid” and lashing out at the BJP for “hurting Hindu sentiments”.
“They have not even spared the sanctum sanctorum of our family deity, Lord Ishwara, during the raid. For this, the deity will decimate Narendra Modi-led BJP. IT officials even raided the priest’s house. HD Deve Gowda’s family has the grace of the deity, and it will destroy the BJP across the country,” Kumaraswamy roared during a poll campaign in another district, Tumkur.
JDS alliance partner Congress too jumped in to do its bit. The official handle of KPCC president put out this tweet:
Amid all the brouhaha, the local police said they were not aware of any raid. “Usually, officials inform local police about such raids as we provide security. We received no such information on I-T raids in any part of the district,” The New Indian Express quoted Chetan Singh Rathore, Superintendent of Police, Hassan, as saying.