BJP has yet again landed itself in a trivial controversy with a significant chunk of its social media supporters criticizing it for BJP Rajya Sabha MP Chandan Mitra’s comments that ‘appeared’ to have insulted the Twittariti.
While participating in a discussion on NDTV, Chandan Mitra was asked about ‘ultra-nationalist’ people on social media influencing BJP’s foreign policy. To this, Mitra categorically stated: “BJP’s policies are not influenced by the Twitterati. I absolutely and categorically state that Twitterati does not influence foreign policy.”
Mitra later added that Twitter “is a useful sounding board as to how some people with nothing very much better to do express their opinions on various subjects.”
Though Mitra is correct in stating that no government policy can be exclusively influenced by social media pressure, he is completely off the mark to brand all social media users, especially the supporters of BJP as being losers who have ‘nothing better to do’.
Any government’s decision-making process is driven by multiple factors among which public opinion is just one of them. No government can be exclusively influenced on all its policies by the public whether online or offline.
Of course, on some issues, public opinion will have the upper hand, but even then it cannot be said to be an exclusive factor that determines the government’s actions. Hence, Mitra’s statement that the government’s policy is not influenced by Twittariti is indeed correct.
But, at the same time, it must not be forgotten that the social media has become an effective communication channel wherein common people can give their feedback to the government. It has provided open access for direct interactions between the government and the citizens, as well as for exchanging meaningful concerns and criticism.
It is to the credit of social media that, even those whose voices that have otherwise been restrained, are able to express their views and opinion. Hence, even though Twitterati does not ‘influence’ foreign and other policies directly, it does give constructive feedbacks, inputs, and new suggestions.
It is true that a section of social media is indeed filled with trolls and abusers. But, this is not a phenomenon that is unique to the BJP camp of supporters. This is present across all ideological camps. However, this in itself does not translate into Twittariti becoming jobless people with no other work to do.
On the contrary, Twitter is full of people from diverse fields from academics to political activists, from engineers to authors who share their knowledge and opinions with others. Social media has also become a strong platform to challenges the dominant, but distorted narrative on social, political, and cultural issues that is being set by the mainstream media and academia.
Whether a veteran journalist like Chandan Mitra is indeed unaware about the enormous contribution of the social media in challenging the distorted mainstream narrative, or does he simply dismisses the use of Social media or was it just an unintentional faux pas that happened when Mitra was trying to explain how the government is not being remote controlled, it is difficult to know for sure. But, it has landed BJP in yet another soup.
After facing severe criticism from Twitterati over Mitra’s remarks, Amit Malviya, BJP’s national IT and SM Vibhag’s in-charge has issued a clarification that the party values its supporters and their feedbacks. Malviya tweeted:
.@BJP4India values its online supporters, their feedback and suggestions in equal measures. Any view to the contrary is not the party’s.
— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) December 8, 2015
The present incident once again exposes the chink in the armor of the BJP’s media cell. BJP’s media handling has been a disaster since it came to power. Various BJP leaders have landed themselves in one or the other controversies. On the other hand, much of the development work started by the Modi government has not received proper dissemination.
It is high time that BJP reexamines its media and communication policy if it wants to avoid unnecessary controversies and wants to make its core achievements reach the common man.