A lot has been spoken about Congress's recent social media rise, particularly the shift in tone, language and promptness of Rahul Gandhi's tweets. Many are hailing Gandhi as a rising social media star, courtesy his witty tweets and sharp attacks in recent times. While it's true that popularity on Twitter or any other social media site doesn't guarantee electoral success. But it's definitely a good start for a party and a leader of which obituaries were written even until few months ago. Not only has Gandhi and the Congress being able to bring about a significant change in their social media strategy. They've also been able to capture the narrative in the digital space which was until recently being dominated by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The otherwise digitally savvy BJP too has started to feel the pinch and is trying hard to adapt to this sudden change in narrative.
This spectacular success story can be attributed to Former MP from Mandya, Divya Spandana, who is also known with her screen name Ramya. She's the current Head of Social Media and Digital Communications of the Indian National Congress. Termed a novice during her appointment, Ramya was handpicked by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to take over the reigns of the party's lack luster social media in May 2017. In less than five months, she has not only proved her credentials but also turned the tide completely for the grand old party on social media. The otherwise digitally savvy BJP too has started to feel the pinch and is trying hard to adapt to this sudden change in narrative.
Question is, if Gandhi and his social media rise is so insignificant, why does the Modi government feel the need to field senior ministers to counter him?
This can be witnessed with the jittery behaviour of many senior ministers of the Modi government who seems to be on an overtly defensive mode. Sample this. For every tweet done from Rahul Gandhi's handle that is critical of the Modi government, Smriti Irani would instantly counter it with another tweet as if on cue. Whether it warrants the stature of a cabinet minister to come down to trolling on social media is a different debate altogether. Question is, if Gandhi and his social media rise is so insignificant, why does the Modi government feel the need to field senior ministers to counter him? Irani who had once called Rahul Gandhi a 'failed politician' incidentally lost the Amethi Lok Sabha elections in 2014 to the Congress scion. Quite an irony I must say.
Not only on Twitter, senior ministers like Smriti Irani, Piyush Goel and Nirmala Sitharaman have come out to attack Gandhi by holding regular press conferences. If anything, they've been ceding more ground and attention by doing so. Even in the absence of a fight, their behaviour is giving the electorate a sense that the ruling party is getting jittery and defensive. Interestingly, a recent story done by ANI claimed that Gandhi's rise on his Twitter following, which jumped from 20 lakhs in May to nearly 37 lakhs, within the next two months can be attributed to bots. Same was claimed for the high volume of RTs that Gandhi had attracted, even crossing popular leaders like Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal who are the most and second most followed Indian politicians on Twitter respectively.
In politics, it is perception more than reality that matters.
Now even if we were to believe that what the story claimed is true, it hardly makes any difference as in politics, perception matters more. For that matter, a Twitter audit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Twitter account suggests that out of his 35 Million plus followers 13 Million are real where as close to 22 million are fake or bot accounts. As per a CNBC report, close to 48 Million accounts on Twitter are bots. So out 48 Million of those, if nearly 22 Million belong to Modi. You can imagine the magnitude of the smokescreen created by the ruling party to highlight the popularity of the Prime Minister on Twitter. But as mentioned earlier, in politics it is perception more than reality that matters.
The shifting dynamics with growing palpable anger against the government and it's policies is helping the grand old party script it's success on social media. With interesting infographics, statistics, fact checks and prompt and witty responses, the Congress seems to be winning the digital game as of now. Many might feel that the euphoria is far fetched but it clearly helps in building a popularity perception for Gandhi. Specially at a time when elections are due in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh as well as Rahul's elevation to the Congress President's post. We shouldn't forget that this is not restricted only to social media, but almost all mainstream news channels and newspapers have debated and discussed this sudden change in dynamics. Which in turn, results in a complete media blitzkrieg in spreading the message to the masses that Rahul Gandhi has completely transformed himself as a mature politician.
This has made the ruling party extremely nervous as it goes against their strategy of painting Gandhi as a novice and a failed politician
The impact can be seen on ground given the large number of crowds that he's drawing in all his rallies in Gujarat where he's singlehandedly running the campaign. This has made the ruling party extremely nervous as it goes against their strategy of painting Gandhi as a novice and a failed politician. But this renewed vigour with which Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party is fighting the battle both on the social media and on ground is a welcome change. The electorate seems to be receiving it positively. Whether it translate to a electoral victory is something that we'll have to wait. But a lot of credit for their spectacular rise on social media has to be given to Divya Spandana who seems to be doing a fabulous job. Let's see if they can sustain the momentum and whether it delivers them electoral dividends in the near future.
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