Five senior functionaries of the ruling BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) lost their blue tick verification badges on Twitter for several hours today, shortly after similar action against the personal account of Vice President Venkaiah Naidu that was overturned on Saturday.
The blue tick was back by evening for the accounts of all the five RSS functionaries.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat, his colleagues Suresh Soni, Arun Kumar, Suresh Joshi and Krishna Kumar were among the accounts that lost the verification badges for some time today, according to sources in the right-wing volunteer organisation.
The blue tick purge has set up a new flashpoint between the government and Twitter, who have been in an escalating standoff since the social media company classified certain posts by a few BJP leaders targeting the opposition Congress as "manipulated".
Mr Naidu's blue tick was restored within a few hours, reportedly when objections were raised by the Vice President's office. The Ministry of Electronics and IT is likely to issue notice to Twitter asking why this was done without "prior intimation". "This is contempt of a constitutional post. Twitter wants to test India's patience," government sources said.
Like Mr Naidu, the verification badges for the RSS functionaries were dropped for "inactivity" amid a recent revival of the verification process after a pause of few years that has seen Twitter review verified accounts and withdraw blue badges from inactive ones, NDTV has learnt.
"Twitter's rule says that if you have not logged in for the past six months, the account will be considered inactive and verification status will be withdrawn. All the RSS leaders had not tweeted anything in a while. Their accounts were created to avoid impersonation," said a source in the RSS.
Twitter had confirmed the policy earlier in the day when asked about the move on Venkaiah Naidu's personal account, saying it had been inactive since 2020 and no one had logged in in the last six months.
Government sources, however, called it an outrageous act against the "Number 2" constitutional head of the country. They pointed out that the accounts of former Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj had stayed verified long after their death in 2019.
The stance signalled a further deterioration of ties between the government and Twitter who have clashed over a range of issues including its stand on new digital rules for social media sites and the discrediting of BJP leaders' tweets.