Amidst the rising cases of Coronavirus in the country, the political debate has now centred around large gatherings of party supporters at election rallies. Given that West Bengal is yet to conclude the remaining 3 phases of its Vidhan Sabha election, several political parties are desperately trying to assume ‘social responsibility’ in the light of Covid-19 crisis.
Earlier today, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi attributed election rallies to the rising Coronavirus cases in the country. This is despite the fact that he had addressed a large gathering in Goalpokhar in West Bengal ahead of the 5th phase of Vidhan Sabha polls just few days back. And the Congress party has been boasting about large crowds at his rallies, hoping to project it as the turn of the party’s political fortunes. After realising that election rallies won’t be of much help to the party’s prospects, Rahul Gandhi decided to call them off.
His tweets gave an opportunity to the left-liberal lobby to target the BJP for supposedly not assuming social responsibility in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. Given that the 2021 West Bengal Assembly election is a bi-party contest between the ruling party TMC and BJP, the vicious lobby is conveniently ignoring Mamata Banerjee’s rallies and her ‘social responsibility’ and instead targetting only the BJP. And a part of the success story of TMC to evade media and public scrutiny has been their shrewd social media strategy.
Understanding TMC’s social media story
On Sunday (April 18), Mamata Banerjee was accompanied by thousands of Trinamool Congress workers during her massive roadshow from Dhakuria Bridge to the Kalighat crossing. While the West Bengal CM remain seated in her wheelchair, her supporters followed her with complete disregard to social distancing guidelines. The visuals of her road show were streamed live on her official Facebook page.
However, on cross-checking her Twitter account, we found that the last tweet was on April 15 wherein she asked the Election Commission to conduct the remaining phases in one go. There was no update about her election rallies or the road show conducted today.
On visiting the official Twitter profile of All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), we found that the last tweet was a routine political jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Once again, there was no update about the road show or a live stream of the public event.
When we took a deep dive into the Twitter timeline of both Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress, we found no live streaming of any political rallies conducted by the party supremo in recent past. TMC’s official handle, however, has occasional short clips of dialogues and slogans raised by Mamata Banerjee.
This, however, is not the case with the social networking site, Facebook. As pointed earlier, we found the live stream of Mamata Banerjee’s roadshow on Facebook. Similarly, her official FB page shared complete video footage of the election rally in Purba Bardhaman on Saturday. The case has been similar to that of her public meeting in Noapara in North 24 Parganas.
We also found live streams of her election rallies, with large public gatherings, in Kolkata and Nadia that took place on April 15 and April 14 respectively.
By shrewdly avoiding live streaming of her political rallies on Twitter, Mamata Banerjee and the ruling Trinamool Congress dispensation has been able to successfully evade public scrutiny. Given that Twitter users in India are far more politically charged and alert than Facebook users, it has helped her evade uncomfortable questions including the doublespeak on the Coronavirus crisis.
While a ‘concerned’ Mamata Banerjee tweets to Election Commission about rising Coronavirus cases on Twitter, her Facebook timeline is filled with videos of election rallies violating social distancing guidelines. While Rahul Gandhi’s change of heart on election rallies have drawn the eyeballs towards BJP, Mamata Banerjee is going unabated about her way with virtually no criticism. This strategy also seems to be working as a quick scan of major mainstream media coverage will show how they have not been covering most of her rallies while they have been going hammer and tongs against the BJP rallies.