Critical or negative remarks on social media against the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) or the Chandrababu Naidu government in Andhra Pradesh may soon land netizens in trouble, or even behind the bars.


Taking a serious view of the "growing criticism" of the party and the government, TDP general secretary and state Information Technology Minister Nara Lokesh has asked his fellow leaders to initiate criminal action against those "tarnishing our image".


"The (mainstream) media is favourable to us but we have no control over the social media and there is a lot of negative propaganda against us. We have to curb this," he is said to have told party leaders in a PowerPoint presentation during the coordination meeting recently.


"If we start taking criminal action against those making critical posts, it will be a deterrent to others," Lokesh, the son of chief minister Naidu, said.


What ostensibly angered Lokesh, who only days ago became an MLC and a minister, was the way he was increasingly targeted on social media platforms over his public utterances. Video clips of his communication skills went viral on social media in recent days and apparently showed him in a "very poor light".


Two days ago, for example, he extended "greetings" to people at a public meeting on the occasion of 126th "vardhanti" (death anniversary) of Dr B R Ambedkar, whereas it was the birth anniversary.


He was also seen fumbling and unable to clearly recite certain words in Telugu while taking oath as an MLC, besides his speech at an election meeting wherein he said voting on "cycle" (TDP's poll symbol) was akin to "hanging yourself".


In another instance, Lokesh said the TDP was the only party that was "casteist, communal, corrupt and money-minded", exposing himself to criticism, as the videos were circulated widely on the social media. His presentation to the party on "media feedback" came against this backdrop, party insiders said. And hence, Lokesh's call for criminal action against those who are circulating such posts, they said.


While Lokesh could not be reached for his version over the developments, Information and Public Relations Minister Kalva Srinivasulu told PTI: "It's not Lokesh Babu's idea as such but there had been some discussion during the recent Budget Session (of Legislature) that there should be some restriction on social media as people have been posting stuff without any restraint."


"Our legislators and leaders feel we need to curb this trend and so we are studying the cyber laws on how to go about it," he said.
Asked if it not exposed the intolerance of the TDP, Kalva, a former journalist, remarked that nobody would have any objection if the posts were "democratic and within the rules".


Everyone has a right to express his or her opinion but they should not infringe on others' rights, he said, adding when there is undue criticism in unrestrained language, there should be some restriction.


"We wanted to discuss this in the Assembly and take a decision but somehow couldn't," the Minister, who is also a politburo member of TDP, said.