By: Rahul Adhikari
January 25 2023
A photo from an all-party meeting called by the Lok Sabha Speaker in August 2021 is being shared with false claims.
Several users on Twitter have shared an image of leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress(INC) sitting together with the claim that the two biggest Indian political parties held a "secret” meeting. The image shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury sitting in a room. One post, originally written in Hindi, sharing the photo, claimed that leaders of the rival parties met for a "secret" meeting, while another claimed that Congress had made a "deal” with the BJP ahead of the 2024 general elections.
Using reverse image search, we found that the image was originally published by a news outlet in 2021 after Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla had called a meeting of leaders of several parties post the adjournment of the monsoon session in the lower house of the Parliament. English daily The Tribune published the image on August 11, 2021, in a report headlined: "PM Modi, Sonia Gandhi share smiles at Speaker's meet." According to the report, the Speaker had called for a meeting of leaders of the ruling and all opposition parties. The photo of PM Modi and Gandhi, who were sitting "not too far apart,” reportedly shared smiles and were seen sharing the same space "after 17 days of bickering between their parties over the Pegasus snooping issue."
Speaker Om Birla had himself also posted a video of the post-adjournment meeting with prominent leaders of the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2021. The footage showed the leaders in the same attire and seating positions as seen in the viral photo. In a tweet in Hindi, he wrote, "After the proceedings of the Lok Sabha were adjourned indefinitely, urged the leaders of all parties to encourage discussion and dialogue in the House in future for the welfare of the people and to remove their shortcomings." Reporting on the gathering, Hindustan Times, on August 12, 2021, wrote that it was a cordial meeting called by the Speaker after the adjournment of the lower house. The meeting took place after a slew of Parliament disruptions over various issues, such as the Pegasus snooping controversy, the now-repealed farm laws, and the rise in fuel prices.
An NDTV report dated August 12, 2021, stated that leaders of the Trinamool Congress, Akali Dal, YSR Congress, and Biju Janata Dal(BJD) were also present in the meeting. They were also seen in the video shared by the Speaker. Therefore, it is clear that the viral photo is not from a "secret" meeting held between the BJP and Congress but an all-party gathering organized in August 2021.
An old image of a meeting of political leaders, including those from Congress and BJP, called by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, is wrongly being shared as a proof of a "secret" meeting held between the two leading parties. The photo in question was captured in August, 2021, and was from a widely publicized meeting. Therefore, we mark this claim false.