Twitter and Social Media Wars
by G B Reddy on 02 Nov 2017 0 Comment

After Rahul Gandhi’s recent visit to the United States, no-holds-barred wars have broken out on Twitter and the social media in the run up to the State Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.


The game of India’s fractious politics, of course, is real. There is no escape. A blizzard of lies, fabricated stories and speculative rumors based on hearsay, generally uncorroborated and out-of-context, are floated, to deliberately and continuously misrepresent facts on the ground. Sadly this has become an accepted norm of the opportunistic politics of the day.


Perhaps advisors like the US-based Sam Pitroda and other close friends have advised Rahul Gandhi to follow President Donald Trump’s electoral tactics to rally and consolidate his votebank and deliver a knock-out punch to the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo on their home turf.


To highlight some of the Rahul Gandhi’s ‘jibes’ against the Prime Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Criticising demonetisation, note-bandi, for crippling the economy, he lambasted the Goods and Services Tax (GST) as Gabbar Singh Tax, a flawed measure which had unleashed a “tsunami of tax terrorism”, the Congress vice-president mocked the Prime Minister’s very big chest and very small heart… He went on to denounce the Make in India programme and the widespread unemployment, which is fair enough for an opposition leader.


With a new speech writer in full form, when President Trump softened towards Pakistan in the afterglow of the release of an American family held hostage by the Taliban for several years, he tweeted: “Modi ji quick; looks like President Trump needs another hug”. Then, the jibes continued – MMD, a Modi-Made Disaster, and so on.


Flushed with this new buoyancy, Rahul Gandhi claimed, “There is no space for corrupted people in Congress Party”. Wow. To balance which he added, ‘Every person in the BJP is a thief’.


Gandhi made a frontal attack on Prime Minister Modi for his criticism of the corruption cases in which the Congress top leaders had secured bail from the court (the National Herald case), and retorted, ‘A person who is in the wrong, sees scams everywhere because this is his reality’. For good measure, the Gandhi scion added, “The emperor is completely naked, but nobody around him has the courage to tell it to him”.


Rahul Gandhi has said, “Pessimists are going abroad.” But is not Congress, which ruled the country for almost six decades, responsible and accountable? Its own top talent, such as Sam Pitroda, lives abroad. Indeed, Pitroda comes to India only when the Gandhi family is in power.


On a serious issue such as unemployment, Gandhi said “that every time they took selfies, a Chinese youth got employment.” Social media responded by flooding Twitter with shots of Rahul Gandhi taking selfies …


But rhetoric apart, the root cause for the growing unemployment could be the rapidly exploding population and illegal migration into the country, besides the rapid depletion of natural resources without value addition in Indian manufacturing.


The Congress Party failed dismally to check the population explosion, which is surely one of the greatest strategic challenges, for fear of losing their minority votebank. Yet it would be difficult to get the party to even address the issue.


Partisan rancor and vitriol during election campaigns is par for the course. But Rahul Gandhi needs to introspect about the state of his own party. Congress stalwarts like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Randeep Surejwala and others have been talking about Rahul Gandhi’s anointment as the party president before Dussehra and Diwali celebrations, which did not happen.


The reasons may be technical, but the lack of an early decision to clinch the issue reflects indecisiveness or lack of courage on Rahul Gandhi’s part to shoulder this enormous responsibility and lead from the front and accept responsibility, should the Congress Party suffer electoral losses in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. There can be no disappearing act after defeat, as has often happened in the past.


Finally, Rahul Gandhi needs to realise that vitriolic via Twitter and the social media can have a backlash if used to peddle fiction, fraud, or speculative conspiracy stories. The sooner he realises that the tirades against Narendra Modi by media outlets in the run up to the 2014 elections failed to influence the voter’s choice in favour of the Congress Party, the better it will be for the Congress party under his leadership.


His witty spoof on his dog, Pidi, to counter charges of boosting his Twitter following by the use of bots (a common activity by handlers of the Twitter accounts of celebrities), was quickly punctured by Assam leader Himanta Biswa Sharma, who tweeted back that he remembered Pidi well, as Gandhi was more involved in feeding biscuits to Pidi than discussing serious issues pertaining to Assam when a delegation met him after much difficulty. That took the steam out of an otherwise credible attempt at political humour.


As is well-known, Himanta Biswa Sharma defected from the Congress in disgust at Rahul Gandhi’s non-seriousness. He joined the BJP and contributed to its handsome victory in Assam.  

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