The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has taken strong objection to a false article published by the Deccan Chronicle as an ‘April fool’s day’ prank. The article claimed that the TDP is merging with the BJP, with the headline, ‘TD merges with BJP, Naidu finalises deal.’ Condemning the article, TDP leader Varla Ramaiah has written to the Editors Guild of India and the Press Council of India, urging them to take stern action against Resident Editor of Deccan Chronicle, Sriram Karri.
“Entertaining as it may appear to a section of politicians, the hoax manufactured by Sriram Karri sinks journalistic ethics to a new low and erodes people's faith in journalism as a reliable arbiter of truth,” Varla Ramaiah’s letter said. It alleged that the act was an indication of “shameless selling out” of the press.
The letter also said that the article “reeks of agenda, and the timing makes it abundantly clear that the author has allowed his personal interest to influence his professional duties.” The article has been published days after the TDP faced a big blow in the urban local body elections in Andhra Pradesh, and a couple of weeks ahead of the Tirupati Lok Sabha bye-election, scheduled for April 17.
The prank article said that Naidu had made the decision after “losing people’s support and being deserted by leaders and cadre across all districts and regions of the state.” It also said that TDP leaders “reportedly felt the party has lost its verve and there is little hope of reinvigorating the party within the next three years and wrest power from the YSRC in the next Assembly polls.” In the concluding lines, however, the article attributes to a ‘political analyst’ a quote that says, “Readers must carefully look at today’s date. They would realise the right conclusion to come to is April Fool’s Day.”
In the days leading up to the Tirupati bye-poll, the TDP had adopted aggressive ‘Hindutva’ politics. Replicating the narrative that was first put forth by the BJP, TDP chief and former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu had also strongly attacked the YSRCP government with allegations of a conspiracy behind “attacks" in Hindu places of worship.
Deccan Chronicle had pulled a similar prank two years ago on April 1, 2019, by publishing an article claiming that TRS leader T Harish Rao, who is now the Finance Minister of Telangana, was likely to join the BJP as he was being side- lined by the TRS. The article was published at a time when there was longstanding speculation on similar lines, which Harish Rao had dismissed several times.
Harish Rao, the nephew of TRS president and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, had also taken objection to the prank, asking Deccan Chronicle to carry an apology the next day. He had said that it was insensitive for a media outlet to play such a prank when the country was facing the threat of fake news. Varla Ramaiah’s letter to the Editors Guild also said that the recent article “has set a dangerous precedent by using news as a medium to demonstrate that fiction can be indistinguishable from fact.”