An Uttar Pradesh BJP leader has appealed to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over the arrest of her husband, accused of creating an audio clip of a conversation indicating that people were being paid to tweet in favour of Yogi Adityanath. The going rate is ₹ 2 a post, it suggested.
"My husband, Ashish Pandey, has revered the name of Yogi Adityanath for four years. This must be a test of respect, devotion, and sincerity. I request Yogi Adityanath to let me meet him, so I can present my husband's side of the story," Dr Preeti, co-coordinator of the state BJP's NGO wing and a member of the Uttar Pradesh child rights body, said in a Hindi tweet.
The Kanpur police arrested Mr Pandey, along with one Himanshu Saini, on Sunday. They have been charged with forgery and cheating, among other things.
The police said Mr Pandey works with a firm involved in social media management. Local media reports suggest he was, till recently, part of a team that handles the accounts of the state government and the Chief Minister's Office (CMO).
There has been no comment from either the government or the CMO over the arrests.
The complainant Atuk Kushwaha, a professional rival of Mr Pandey, reportedly runs social media handles of many celebrities and politicians in the state. He said the concerned audio clip, which surfaced on May 30, was intended to defame him.
The 1 min 10 second clip contains a conversation between two unnamed individuals allegedly claiming that people will be paid ₹ 2 per tweet for posting messages with specific hashtags in favour of the Chief Minister.
Among others, the clip was shared by retired IAS officer Surya Pratap Singh, a known critic of the Yogi Adityanath government. He faces police cases over a few posts that are allegedly fake.
In his tweet accompanying the clip, Mr Singh alleged that the men in the conversation were known to a prominent BJP leader.
A police statement said the audio was a distortion created by mixing two separate conversations -- one of them involving a minor. They claim to have recovered laptops and mobile devices as part of their investigation.