I often view the trending topics in India on Twitter to keep up with the latest news. There was a recent trend of hashtags that I didn’t quite get at first glance: #PappuCII, #Feku, #InternetPappus. They coincided with public appearances of Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi—of which there have been many for they are our presumptive Prime Ministerial candidates. If you haven’t read the tweets, I don’t advise you do. It’s a cesspool of hatred and name calling by BJP and Congress supporters.
Now it has come to this: A prime-time news show that ought to be about issues ponders how the Twitter war of #Feku vs. #PappuCII is going to affect political agenda in India. Seriously.
As an observer, it’s been fascinating to watch how the use of Twitter has evolved in India. Early adopters were the socially hip people who, if I may use a broad brush, were social liberals. Right-wing ideas did not have a voice. I’m using a loose definition of ideas here. Calling Rahul Gandhi dumb and Sonia Gandhi by her maiden name Maino are not ideas.
As a natural reaction, over the past year there was a meteoric rise of right-wing Twitter accounts. Follow the retweets and you can track the influential users: Kanchan Gupta, parody accounts of Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi, “proud Hindus” or right of center folks, or as this guy calls himself: a right-wing fanatic with interest to shape 21st century as India’s century. He has about 6,000 followers and I’m like:
This had to be a paid, organized effort. After all, who has time on their hands to defend a political party all day long, every day? It is really just that: defending the BJP and dissing the Congress, on every single point, on every single incident, day in and day out. Surely that can’t be a coincidence?
But what’s interesting is that it worked. And well. Not because of the ingenuity of the idea but the terrible governance of the UPA which kept giving the movement the momentum and people it needed.
Some time back I wrote about Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. One comment insinuated that Rahul Gandhi was dumb and used the phrase Amul Baby. It was obvious the commenter was plugged into the right-wing universe. Those word associations don’t exist in the real world.
The Congress then realized it was losing this war very visibly. The retaliation began with pro-Congress Twitter users cropping up causing trending topics such as #Feku (a reference to Narendra Modi and his allegedly lofty claims.)
This too has to be an organized effort, and much more likely than the right-wing rise. The reason as I see it is this: I get that enough people buy into the identity politics of BJP to defend them at every opportunity. But I do not see why a person with no incentive would defend the Congress after its performance since 2004.
I should add another category to the type of content I avoid: Hatred.