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Updated: June 6, 2013 20:45 IST

Congress leader’s post spotlights online power in politics

Pheroze L. Vincent
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A file picutre of Ajay Singh Rahul, Leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha.
A file picutre of Ajay Singh Rahul, Leader of Opposition in Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha.

At 7 a.m. Thursday, Leader of the Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Ajay Singh gave vent to his disgust with BJP and RSS supporters on the Internet.

Mr. Singh, popularly called Rahul Bhaiya, wrote on his Facebook wall that “no matter how many kicks they get…, they shamelessly come back with fake Ids every day.”

In his post, published in Hindi, Mr. Singh said that since no one wanted to read what BJP and RSS supporters wrote on Facebook, nor did anyone like their posts, they created fake Ids and liked their own posts. “They forcefully comment on posts on Congress leaders and workers in a vain attempt to hear their own jackal calls... Wherever they go, they are kicked out, their posts deleted, their pages banned and their profiles blocked... They have no arguments or facts, only rhetoric, abuses, indecency and vulgarity.”

Not any particular incident caused the outburst, but the general behaviour of the RSS supporters, he clarified, talking to The Hindu. “They have flooded the Net with their comments. These are extremely divisive. This is not criticism but attacks on the system itself.”

Besides Mr. Singh, Pradesh Congress Committee president Kantilal Bhuria, BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai and Industries Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya are active online. Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan’s twitter handle continuously publishes information about welfare schemes.

BJP MLA Deepak Joshi, son of the former Chief Minister, Kailash Joshi, ran into trouble with his party after he posted on Facebook his analysis of the outcome of the Karnataka Assembly elections. “The party [the BJP] had reached the limit of dynastic politics and cronyism [patthavaad],” read his post, which he later deleted.

“It is a democratic country, and everyone is free to air his views,” Mr. Joshi told this newspaper. “Supporters emulate leaders, so we must be calm and maintain decency while posting. The latest example is the Naxal attack. Everyone starts posting that the BJP did it or the Congress did it, without waiting for the investigation to complete.”

Bhopal’s Rasheed Kidwai, author of 24, Akbar Road and Sonia: A Biography, is a whipping boy for saffron supporters online. “I harbour no grudge and have taken even undue criticism as a professional hazard. Someone’s interest in a subject is construed as support by these people [saffron supporters]. Any reference to [Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra] Modi immediately attracts a flood of comments without decency or etiquette. There is a tendency on the Internet to label people. They don’t take note of the critical references to [Congress president] Sonia [Gandhi] and the Congress in my books,” he says.

The battle on the Internet has heated up in the run-up to the Assembly elections due later this year. Much of this goes under the radar at the national level as it is in Hindi. Mr. Singh’s funny and aggressive post, written in the heartland’s spoken Hindi, is similar to the Gangs of Wasseypur Valentine’s Day parody that went viral on YouTube this year.

Affordable Chinese and Indian handsets, hooked to the Internet, are ubiquitous even in tehsil towns in Madhya Pradesh. While it is only senior leaders who are active online now, the trend indicates an increased online following of politics, especially among the youth.

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