Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s two speeches in the capital — first to businesswomen and then to a media platform — on Monday split the online community right down to the middle.
His speech to the FICCI Ladies Organisation was centred on issues of gender empowerment, the need to fight female foeticide, and give women a say in economic decision-making.
But as the speech was under way, BJP and Congress supporters on Twitter had already carved out their territory with different hashtags. For the former, it was ModistormsFICCI, while for the latter, it was ‘Feku’, a Hindi slang describing a person who brags and speaks excessively about himself, often without basis. By the end of the day however, in the strange ways of online wars, Modi supporters had begun using the Feku hashtag to appropriate it.
Critics were quick to point out the factual inconsistencies in the CM’s speech. When Mr. Modi highlighted Lijjat papad as an example of entrepreneurship of Gujarati tribal women, @nsmlive tweeted, “Saw Modi’s nose grow a bit was a venture by poor Gujarati women. Actually started in Mumbai in 1959 and HQ still there.” The issue of the 2002 riots emerged, with @ritabanerji pointedly tweeting, ‘Still had to answer for gang-rapes and killing of Muslim women in Gujarat.”
Mr. Modi’s references to the women in the audience as ‘mothers and sisters’ drew criticism that he was stuck to stereotypes. @armchairpandit sarcastically tweeted, “Maa, Doodh, Maaton, Behenon...nice way to connect with modern, achieving women. Classy.”
In the same vein, Siddharth Bhatia, a senior journalist, tweeted from his handle @bombaywallah, “FICCI women also want to know about investment policy and politics not just gharelu matters and traditions.”
Madhu Kishwar, founder-editor of Manushi magazine, felt objections to the use of the ‘sister-mother’ terms were misplaced and tweeted, “Feminists have no idea the deep connect Ma Behan imagery evokes in India. Coz it doesn’t strike chord in West doesn’t mean we discard it.”
Mr. Modi’s speech to Network 18 platform on the theme of governance prompted many to applaud him for “bringing back issues of administration” on the table.
“If Twitter had its way, elections in India would be a battle of hashtags. Mercifully the math and sociology of our elections more complex,” television anchor Barkha Dutt tweeted.