By Abhishek Chhajlani
Nearly two years ago, the Congress was taken to the cleaners in the Lok Sabha election by the BJP. The Congress, on its part, has since been a silent opposition, something you'd expect from a party that was swept the way they were. Forget rising like a phoenix from its ashes, the party hasn't even flown like a humming bird, and has been lying rather low. Its members have pretty much behaved the way bullies in school behave at parent-teacher meetings when teachers tell their parents that they have failed in the final exams.
All of a sudden though, like Archimedes' Eureka moment, trolls on Twitter realised they want #AzadiFromCongress? Now?
Two years after they were already freed from their apparently 'terrorising' rule? A lot of us would have come across some version of this quote: "I don't have anything against God! It's his fan club I can't stand." The saffron brigade like God's followers, has a mind of its own, and to be honestly blunt, it's frightening at this moment. With all that's happening in Haryana, with what's shockingly transpiring inside the JNU campus, with bad debts being written off like petty bets between friends, the saffron brigade's social media cell has time to 'make' the hashtag #AzadiFromCongress trend on Twitter?
When the government is being largely unsuccessful in derailing mass-movements, their social media counterparts are busy trending irrelevancy. If this is what the trends look like, I would rather not follow what's trending!
Twitter, despite its earth-shattering user base, has some basic flaws. It's rather easy to make something trend on Twitter — if you have the money and resources, that is. And I'm not even talking about promoted hashtags. Most tweets on the hashtag #AzadiFromCongress have multiple retweets, albeit from precariously dull accounts. Most retweets (and a lot of tweets) on this hashtag have come from accounts with less than 100 followers, from accounts that only preach the saffron agenda online and have no other business being on Twitter. Some accounts have tweeted this hashtag more times than their entire follower base.
One particular account with six (and no zeroes after it) followers has contributed 250+ tweets to this trend. Leaves me as dumbstruck as you, quite honestly! One look at the Tweet results for this hashtag, and you'll see what I'm talking about.
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Now, I'm not a cynic, but I don't want to be considered a fool for my lack of enthusiasm either. I may not march to JNU and indulge in sloganeering, but at the end of the day, I'm a voter too. I optimistically helped bring the BJP to power, however this brigade behind the party — that looms over its already larger-than-life persona — frightens me to say the least. I fear voicing public opinion, because trolling on social media has now been replaced by vengeance on the streets and even inside court houses.
I fear voicing my skepticism, because your followers that once believed in V for Victory, now believe in V for Vendetta. I fear because I have women in my family who I can't imagine being harassed — for lack of using a more effective word. I fear because there seems to be no place for ideology, it's only a ludicrous show of muscle now.
The BJP came in with a lot of intent, optimism and not to forget, a thumping majority.
The next Lok Sabha election is another three years away, and a lot can happen between now and then, however if you're looking at trends not from Twitter's rather myopic lenses, but with broader vision, you can't help but notice the rising undercurrent of anger and passive aggression. While the whistleblowing community could be busy trolling and threatening anybody who speaks against their masters, the angst is not inflated and exaggerated like these trends are.
The poor in this country have always been fragmented, the financially rich are now seeing signs of fragmentation too, especially on the basis of ideological frustration against blinded belief. Most pro-BJP voters voted with a lot of aspirational value, it wasn't just getting rid of the Congress, it was welcoming something breathtakingly fresh. People did not vote for the lesser of the two evils, they voted for something not just better, but promising in isolation as well. That vision and promise seem rather diluted now.
Coming back to the original bone of contention and to put things into context, the #StandWithJNU hashtag received less tweets than #AzadiFromCongress, but its potential reach on Twitter was much higher (11 million versus 3 million, according to analytics tools). The next World War may not be fought on Twitter, but if the trends are pointing in the right direction (and it's about reach and not promoted opinions), the saffron agenda might not just lose, it could be swept away both on social media and electoral grounds.
You can create an aura of trends with dummy profiles and accounts, but come election day, 'real' votes and voters will count, and unless you have a plan of manufacturing them, like other things, you might just have to watch from the sidelines for another five-year stretch!
The author is an entrepreneur and start-up trend observer