The BJP has got a taste of its own medicine in the past few days. The party that has institutionalized the trolling business with its vast army of social media warriors/paid activists is in the line of the fire of its own soldiers. Hell hath no fury like a troll scorned - the party has learnt the hard way.
Two of its MPs this week have earned the ire of BJP's trolldom for dissing the Twitterati.
First, BJP's Youth Wing chief and MP Anurag Thakur said that the social media does not represent the "sense of the nation". He was talking in the context of India-Pakistan cricket and was trying to explain why India has been more willing to engage with Pakistan of late, especially over cricket. The result? #ShameOnAnuragThakur trending on Twitter.
Then on Monday, editor and BJP MP Chandan Mitra mocked the Twitterati openly in a panel discussion on NDTV. Mr Mitra categorically denied any influence of social media on the Modi government's policies, particularly vis-a-vis Pakistan.
"I don't think any government can actually frame foreign policy or any other policy on the basis of Twitter, which is hyperbolic at times and no BJP does not. BJP policy is not decided by the Twitterati," Mr Mitra said. "No. I absolutely and categorically state that Twitterati does not influence policy. Yes, it's a useful sounding board as to how some people with nothing very much better to do express their opinions on various subjects."
The "jobless" got on with their job in no time. Chandan Mitra was also trending on Twitter.
Mr Mitra and Mr Thakur were abused, mocked, and dismissed by the self-obsessed trolls as BJP minions, who don't reflect the BJP's party line.
Sample this:There were others, more hurt by these leaders' comments, who demanded clarifications by the BJP.
The BJP obliged. Party's IT cell chief Arvind Gupta said:
The BJP might weather this revolt by its Twitter warriors, but it's a moment for the party to pause and think over the monster that it has created and unleashed in the virtual world. And it's now threatening to derail the Modi government's real politik. After all, both Anurag Thakur and Chandan Mitra were defending their party's positions on India-Pakistan cricket and bilateral talks. But in the times of Twitter nationalism, the "patriotic" view on both these issues is opposite of the political, pragmatic view.
The Twitterati loves to live in its cocoon. They run polls on social media in which the like-minded participate and then the survey results are shared and circulated as the mood of the nation. They are not. They only reflect the mood of a type of people. This tribe dominates the social media, it controls the virtual narrative and tries to bully the real politik.
The BJP could have utilized this moment of internet backlash to instill some sense of order and discipline in its Twitter army. It could have told its social warriors that while propaganda is one thing, policy-making is a nuanced exercise which cannot be guided by hyperbolic slogans of the virtual world. It could have defended Mr Mitra and Mr Thakur against the onslaught.
But it chose to surrender before the lynch mob. How could it not? And this is not the first instance of the BJP and its leaders caving in to the abusive, vitriolic campaigns on social media. A senior minister now chooses anchors for interviews based on Twitter reactions. Another Union Minister, Smriti Irani, was at least honest about obliging her Twitter support base for not doing an interview with NDTV's Barkha Dutt for 18 months. "They are my supporters, they helped me in my campaign. I owe it to them," Ms Irani said in a recent interview on NDTV.
The BJP, now that it's in government, at some point will have to face up to this virtual Frankenstein. If it doesn't show the courage to stand up to internet bullying, as has been the case till now, its policy-making business will suffer. It's a mess that the BJP has created for itself. It used this band of bullies to create a hyper-nationalist, majoritarian, binary, Us vs Them narrative. This narrative doesn't leave any space for any nuance. It just demands complete surrender in front of its propaganda.
A campaign can be run on propaganda, but governing is a different ball game. And that's a real, hard fact.(Mohd Asim is Senior News Editor, NDTV 24x7)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.