BJP’s IT head Amit Malviya recently wrote an article accusing AAP of degrading the online discourse. I couldn’t help but laugh but then thought that I should show him a mirror.
All of us who have been active on social media over the last few years know that BJP and its supporters have been constantly indulging in online abuse, slander, and rumour mongering. It also seems that he hasn’t read my piece about how Thailand tweets for BJP. However, now that Malviya has levelled the charges against us and seems to be behaving like an ostrich oblivious to the filth around him, I can’t help but put forth some facts.
The attitude of a top leadership of any political party towards abuse is the testimony of the party’s stand on the issue. In the case of BJP, its top leader is our respected Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I would comfortably assume that anyone he follows has his patronage and he likes to see what they are tweeting.
On the evening of 28 July, the leadership of Aam Aadmi Party did a press conference in which we had showed how the prime minister endorses online abusers. Seems like Malviya had missed it and thus I would request him to watch the video of the press brief:
He still might find it tough to comprehend and thus I’ll elucidate the four cases we discussed in the press conference one by one for his understanding.
Case 1) Nipun Sahu wants Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to be shot dead. I would not have worried about him as baseless threats to political leaders by deranged individuals are something we see every now and then.
Sahu’s exploits are not only limited to death threats but also throwing all kinds of expletives on the mother of AAP Convenor and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. I would still pay little heed to him.
Then, I came across Sahu’s Twitter bio.
His profile says, “IT Cell - @BJP4India”.
Maybe, Malviya would be able to recognise him as he claims to work in the cell which Malviya heads. Or Malviya might say, as I expect him to, that he does not know the person and anyone can write “IT Cell - @BJP4India” in his Twitter bio.
In that case, I would ask, why does PM Narendra Modi follow Nikunj Sahu?
Using a very simple and publicly available follower finder tool, I found that Modi follows Sahu on Twitter.
Even after we did a press conference on 28 July, PM Modi has not unfollowed Sahu. He does patronise him at least on Twitter, if not in real life.
Case 2) There is one person called Mahaveer on Twitter who takes pride in describing himself as a ‘Proud Hindu’ and ‘Nation First’ person. His Twitter bio also says that he’s blessed to be followed by PM Narendra Modi.
His Twitter exploits include bullying and abusing people, including Kejirwal. Many female Twitter users who have been abused by him will give testimony to the kind of online harassment they were subjected to my Mahaveer.
Sometime in mid-2015, Twitter took notice of Mahaveer’s exploits and banned him. The entire BJP Social Media team campaigned against Twitter to get Mahaveer’s account reactivated and no less than cabinet state minister for micro, small and medium enterprises, Giriraj Singh tweeted in his support using the hashtag #IStandWithMahaveer.
No wonder, Mahaveer’s account was reactivated by Twitter shortly thereafter. Even Twitter is vulnerable to pressure from such high and mighty.
One might ask again, why do I believe Mahaveer if he says he’s followed by the PM. Thus, I again used the same tool and till 6 pm of 5 August, 2016. Modi was still following Mahaveer.
If this is not patronage, what is?
Case 3) StartUp India was inaugurated with much fanfare by PM Modi and many young entrepreneurs hoped that the initiative would help them fulfil their dream of having a successful startup.
With a verified Twitter handle and 38,000+ followers, it does have a strong social media presence as well.
We are not sure as of yet as to how many entrepreneurial dreams did Startup India fulfilled but its official handle did do something unexpected.
One fine day, it started retweeting some unexpected tweets.
Of course, we do know that the term ‘Presstitutes’ was used first time in the public domain by current Union Minister VK Singh but a verified Government of India handle endorsing it was a bit too much.
Initially, some BJP office-bearers said that the screenshot was photoshopped but when Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a series of tweets, blamed an external agency that was hired to handle the Startup India Twitter account for the goof-up, they fell silent.
Malviya and his kind should check with the concerned ministers before making assumptions about images being photoshopped. After all, not everyone is as good as the BJP folks at photoshop.
I have shared just three of the innumerable examples. Every social media user who has ever tried to take a stand which is even remotely liberal would be able to tell you how s/he was hounded by the right-wing, RSS-leaning, BJP-supporting, anti-liberal army of bhakts!
My suggestion to Mr Malviya is that he should work towards making sure that the topmost leader of his party stops following abusers and then ensure that the message is passed onto others like Giriraj Singh.
Before I end, I would also advise Amit to improve his own image within his ranks as some of the BJP people I have met idolize him as a troll. May be he can try and improve that image before pointing fingers at others.
The author heads AAP’s innovation and IT team