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A quiet debut for Rahul on Twitter

A file photo of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi

A file photo of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi  


Mr. Gandhi officially took the plunge in social media with @OfficeofRG handle, setting off questions on why now, why not under his name and why so late.

Rahul Gandhi returned to the political arena two weeks ago in a carefully crafted event and displayed an aggressive engagement with the Land Acquisition Bill, clearly a hot potato for the BJP government.

Coming after a 57-day hiatus, his appearance on April 19, at the Ram Lila Maidan, kept the media on its toes. He continued to display his trademark aggression by making his presence in Parliament, a talking point in the media and the BJP government. In contrast, his debut on Twitter on Thursday was a quiet affair. Mr. Gandhi, described by The Wall Street Journal as long-time media refusenik, officially took the plunge in social media with @OfficeofRG handle, setting off questions on why now, why not under his name and why so late.

A different constituency

Sources said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his team had discussed his joining Twitter and Facebook for over a year. His advisers had even urged the Congress leader to create accounts during the Lok Sabha election campaign but he was reluctant to do so.

A senior leader said he had been trying to persuade Mr. Gandhi to join four years ago. Two weeks ago, the revival that his team had been planning found an outlet at Ram Lila Maidan. A strategy evolved not only to keep him in the news everyday but also make him appear accessible.

At the time of going to press, with three tweets @OfficeofRG, in the third person, had aggregated 43.0k followers. But Mr. Gandhi, observers say, does have a lot of catching up to do especially with the man he has decided to lock horns with — Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been criticised for his frenetic engagement with Twitter and dwindling offline engagements at home.

Twitter demands a personal touch, and presidents and prime ministers have used their Twitter handles to varying degrees to engage with a different constituency, that is young, influential, quick to form opinions and mobilise them. Most top leaders’ Twitter accounts are handled by a confidante, with the leader himself or herself reviewing it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the world’s second-most followed political leader after U.S. President Barack Obama, has a team which prepares drafts of tweets and Mr. Modi quickly signs off on them, often on the go. Mr. Gandhi’s shying away from engaging with the microblogging site, on a personal account, does raise questions about how seriously he takes this new social engagement. Sources close to him say he is expected to launch a personal handle from which he will tweet himself.

And here is the catch. Rahul Gandhi comes on Twitter at a time when the Congress is emerging as a rallying point for all Opposition parties to take the government to task. As a young Congress member puts it, “as the largest Opposition party, it is important for us to engage with people through all available platforms. When the party was in power, Rahul confined himself to organisational matters in the Congress. Now, the demands are different and it is important for him to communicate directly and quickly through Twitter.”

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2018 4:27:22 PM |