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‘Hug diplomacy’ and politics of humour

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Congress’s minute-long video has triggered a debate within the party; BJP criticises it

A minute-long video that the Congress’s official Twitter handle released on Sunday to mock Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “hug diplomacy” with world leaders has started a debate within the party.

Many party leaders are asking how far its social media wing should go to mock political rivals.

At the official briefing, national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi downplayed the issue by saying it should be seen as an expression of humour.

“I think it is time we start appreciating humour in politics. The content in the video cannot be by any stretch of imagination be said to be vicious or in any sense meant to create a mala fide intent. A certain sense of humour shouldn’t escape us. Puncturing pomposity with humour is important,” said Mr. Singhvi.

The video has received more than 11,000 likes and been shared more than 4,000 times until Monday evening. Almost equally it has been criticised and “the official social media wing of the party has been charged as behaving like trolls”.

Sources claim the matter was intensely debated at an informal WhatsApp group of the social media team and there were two distinct views.

While some objected to the video that mocks the PM’s hugs — for example Mr. Modi hugging the former French President Francois Hollande was termed the “Titanic Hug” and a clip of the movie was inserted — others defended it by saying “people need to loosen up”.

It was also pointed out by some members of the social media team that Congress president Rahul Gandhi himself had mocked the Prime Minister on his #hugplomacy last year.

On October 15, a day after President Donald Trump had tweeted that he was getting to know Pakistani leaders better, Mr. Gandhi had tweeted, “Modi ji quick; looks like President Trump needs another hug.”

‘New low’

On Sunday, the BJP accused the Congress of “stooping to a new low”, and asked the Congress president to apologise for the video.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday told presspersons that Mr. Gandhi should stop doing negative politics while Lok Sabha member Meenakshi Lekhi released some old pictures of Indira Gandhi hugging Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Rajiv Gandhi hugging the former Pakistani ruler General Zia-ul-Haq. Describing those pictures as “beautiful and timely”, Ms. Lekhi said, “Hugs were meant only for dictators instead of leaders from democracies. Political act is work of art!”

During the Gujarat campaign, when the Youth Congress posted a tweet mocking Mr. Modi’s past as a tea seller, the party had condemned it. But on Monday, it sought to play down the controversy by terming it much-needed humour.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 1:24:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hug-diplomacy-and-politics-of-humour/article22444544.ece

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