The founder and editor of Postcard News – a website accused of spreading fake news to further a communal agenda – is hoping to get a BJP ticket from Karnataka’s Moodabidri. Mahesh Vikram Hegde, the editor of the right-wing portal who was recently arrested by the Karnataka Central Crime Branch (CCB) recently, for allegedly spreading fake news and communally sensitive stories. He is currently out on bail in the case.
State media convenor of BJP Yuva Morcha, Karnataka – Sandeep Ravi – confirmed to TNM that Mahesh Vikram Hegde is interested in contesting from Dakshina Kannada. “Mahesh has expressed his interest to the party to contest as the candidate. He is most likely interested in contesting from his hometown, Moodabidri,” Sandeep said.
“However, it is ultimately upto the party to decide,” Sandeep said. An advocate by profession, Sandeep Ravi also represents Mahesh Hegde in the fake news case.
Moodabidri has historically been a Congress bastion. The constituency has voted for the grand old party six out of 11 times in the Assembly polls. In fact, the incumbent MLA, former Karnataka Fisheries Minister Abayachandra Jain, has won four times from the constituency. However, this year, the 68-year old leader is facing tough competition from two other Congress aspirants – MLC Ivan Dsouza and new entrant Mithun Rai.
Since the first polls in the 60s, the BJP has never won from Moodabidri constituency. With no other formidable contestants from the region, BJP, which lost the 2013 polls by a margin of 4550 votes, may now try to break the jinx by positioning Mahesh Hegde as a gamble.
The Postcard News founder, who is followed by the Twitter handle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has drawn attention to himself ever since the launch of the website in 2016. The right-leaning website is known for carrying fake news regularly, and has been panned by media critics of being a mouthpiece of the RSS, BJP and other right wing groups.
Recently, the Karnataka police arrested Mahesh after Postcard News published a fake story about a Jain monk being attacked by Muslim youth. According to police, a Jain monk who had come for the Shravanabelagola festival had met with an accident on March 13, but Postcard News published a status message on social media stating that he had been attacked by Muslim youth.
The arrest was followed by a strong show of support for Mahesh Hegde from BJP leaders, including ministers. Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde termed it a “political witch-hunt by the Congress.” Several other BJP leaders supported Mahesh Hegde as well, despite Postcard News’s fake stories being debunked on several occasions.
"The arrest does not deter Mahesh Anna, in fact now he has gained sympathy and more public support as he was made a political scapegoat by the Congress party. We are sure, he will win polls if he contests," an associate at Postcard News said, wishing to remain anonymous.
Meanwhile, BJP spokespersons have been tightlipped about who the candidates will be. The BJP is anticipated to formally announce the second-list of candidates by Sunday afternoon.
Speaking to the TNM, BJP spokesperson of the state unit Shantaram denied any knowledge on the contents of the list. "It is prepared by party leaders, I can only tell you that the list will be released either Sunday evening or late night," he said.
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