A few days back, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, lost her cool on Twitter. No, it was not due to some Congress trolls abusing her. Nor was it because some media house had published a hit-job on her. It was because a few BJP supporters questioned her.
It all started when the MP posted this picture from her Twitter account:
Defence colony gets it’s wall of Honour, Proud moment for the residents and the country pic.twitter.com/Eb2Bbup474
— Meenakashi Lekhi (@M_Lekhi) July 30, 2016
It was obviously a matter of pride and honour to be called as a guest at a function organised by our ex-army men. But there was one thing, or rather one person in the picture which perturbed her fans. Controversial journalist from NDTV, Barkha Dutt was also present in the pictures.
Besides beingone of the reasons for lowering Indian media’s credibility, Barkha Dutt was in the crosshairs of many nationalists because of her latest sympathetic utterances towards slayed terrorist Burhan Wani. This was further heightened after Arnab Goswami mercilessly exposed her, without of course naming her. To add this, such a personality coming to a function related to the armed forces was the last straw. In such a situation many people felt that Lekhi’s presence along with Barkha was untenable.
The natural, and initial assumption of social media users was that it was a program organised by MP Lekhi or the BJP, in which Barkha too was invited. This led to a barrage of tweets questioning Lekhi as to why she was giving importance to such a persona-non-grata at such an event. Some of the messages could have also been insulting to the MP.
Lekhi’s response to the outrage was astonishing. She started off by calling one of her party’s supporters an “idiot”. Another self avowed BJP voter was called a “Kejri supporter”. Then she proceeded to retweet troll tweets, such as images of PM Modi with Barkha and other unwanted people. Some people were called “lobbyists”. Another was likened to Ravana.
In all of the above, the main point, which was also stated, got completely drowned out. The event was apparently not organised by the MP. It was an event of South MCD, the elected councillor of the area was a Congressman and the area was part of Lekhi’s constituency. The MP did clarify this at multiple points, but these clarifications were interspersed with her rude replies to tweets, some of which may have been rude themselves.
Both sides erred in this episode. Social media supporters of BJP and Lekhi erred, in assuming that it was a BJP event. It was a natural misunderstanding which could have been resolved calmly and peacefully. The MP could have abstained from making abusive tweets and stuck to the point: Barkha was not invited by her. An MP should not abuse any person, especially not your own supporters.
Elected representatives to the Lok Sabha, and especially first-timers, should realise that they owe a large part, if not all, of their electoral success to the Modi wave. A large section of voters would have voted for them, just because they wanted to see Modi as the PM. Hence, taking such supporters for granted is a very bad idea. Secondly, they must realise, BJP owes a large share of its success to its online supporters, especially on Twitter. Twitter may not have as many active users as Facebook, but this is where all memes originate, all jokes start, which target politicians, which mock leaders, which eventually percolate to whatsapp groups and email chains. Antagonising your strength when a quiet word can do much better is harakiri.
Politicians must also realise it is far better to be surrounded by alert and frank supporters, rather than true-blue yes-men “Bhakts”. Finally, it is the supporters who make a politician and it is always good to have people who will call a spade a spade. What one must adjust to is tolerating the sometimes offensive tone and tenor, instead trying to find the message, and analysing whether it is relevant.
After Lekhi went off track, so did some over-enthusiastic supporters. One cannot expect that an MP will boycott a program with her voters just because one media person who is at loggerheads with her support base is present at the venue.
Social media supporters also must realise the predicament elected leaders, especially spokespersons are in. Social media users expect that some controversial journalists and their channels be boycotted. But it is not as simple. If this criteria is used, 80-90% of media houses would have to be boycotted. The result would be the party would be unrepresented at debates and there would be no one to counter the propaganda. Until and unless there are enough media houses and channels on the other side as well, it is a must that BJP leaders and spokesperson grace such channels and put forth their views.
Also, saying that leaders should individually snub media houses or persons is easier said than done. Media and politicians have an odd relationship. They are often at loggerheads on many issues, yet politicians depend on the media to get adequate publicity. Hence, they always have to strike a fine balance in being tough, yet not adversarial with media persons. Further, if they do get into fights with media persons, then they are inviting even more negative press for themselves and their party. This is the harsh reality which one must understand.
In sum total, while one can fault a section of social media users for unnecessary outrage, they cant be taken to task because at the end of they day they are not honourable MPs elected to the Parliament. An MP on the other hand must understand how to handle such tough situations with tact and patience, instead of making enemies out of friends.
P.S.: On a side note, these category of supporters who question their own leaders are also hilariously tagged as “Bhakts” by leftists.