False posts claiming 'Indian opposition spokesman called PM Modi a hero' circulate ahead of state polls

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A video has been viewed thousands of times in social media posts that claim it shows a "spokesman for India's main opposition party" calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a "hero" ahead of upcoming polls in the country's northern Uttar Pradesh state. The claim is false; the video shows Indian news channel head Jagdeesh Chandra praising Modi in a television interview. A representative for Chandra -- who has been vocal about his support for Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party -- told AFP he is not affiliated with the main opposition Congress party.

The video was shared here on Facebook on December 22. It has been viewed over 11,000 times.

The Hindi-language caption of the video translates as: "When a journalist asked Congress spokesman, can Rahul Gandhi compete with Narendra Modi? Listen to what the Congress spokesman had to say  about Modi…"

Rahul Gandhi is a leading figure in the country's main opposition Indian National Congress party.

Congress is contesting seats against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in an upcoming election in early 2022 in the northern Uttar Pradesh state.

 

Screenshot of the misleading post taken on December23, 2021

A TV anchor could be seen in the video talking to a guest about Modi's inauguration of the Kashi Vishwanath temple complex in Varanasi, a city in Uttar Pradesh located on the bank of the Ganges river that is sacred for Hindus.

Opposition leaders -- including Rahul Gandhi -- criticised the timing of the inauguration ahead of the state polls.

The anchor asks: "The way PM Modi inaugurated the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Varanasi yesterday... it can be said that the PM played a Hindu card. Will Rahul Gandhi ever be able to compete with that?"

The guest replies: "Very difficult... Nobody can match that. Narendra Modi is a hero. There are 100 to 150 million people who consider him a God… What happened in Kashi is extraordinary... Look at his photos of walking down the corridor dressed as a priest with religious utensils in his hands... Taking a dip in the Ganges... He is like a Hindu king."

Similar videos were also shared with the same claim in posts here and here on Facebook; and here and here on Twitter.

But the man being interviewed in the video is the head of a local news channel and not a spokesman for Congress party as the posts claim.

Keyword searches found the video was taken starting from the 49-minute 21-second mark of this hour-long television show that aired on local media organisation First India News on December 14.

At the beginning of the original video, the anchor introduces the guest as Jagdeesh Chandra.

Chandra was appointed head of First India News in 2018, according to the organisation's Facebook page.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading posts (left) and the original video (right).

A video of Chandra uploaded here by First India News shows the same person as the man being interviewed in the report, as seen in the screenshot comparison below.

Screenshot comparison

Further keyword searches found news reports that state Chandra has been a vocal supporter of Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

In this report that First India News aired in 2019, he could also be seen calling the prime minister a "hero".

In response to the false posts, a representative for Chandra told AFP: "He is not a member of the Congress party".