Politicians can learn from how Team Anna used social media: Tharoor

Editor’s Note: Firstpost editors Sandip Roy and Lakshmi Chaudhry report on the ultimate celebrity conference. A five star line up of authors, intellectuals, biz tycoons, actors, politicians and more have gathered at the Grand Hyatt in Goa as part of Thinkfest. Co-organized by Tehelka and Newsweek, this haute version of TED brings together an eclectic and intriguing range of A-list names, from Nobel peace prize winning Leymah Gbowee to Omar Abdullah to author Siddharth Muherjee to Arvind Kejriwal. Here are their reports on some of the most interesting conversations.

How does one of our most media savvy politicians grade one of our most successful political movements in recent times?

The Anna movement has been a triumph of communication - built as it was on SMSes, missed calls and social media. Shashi Tharoor has always been the master of communication, the Great Communicator, the man of a million tweets. He has also been undone by his own tweets. But as he told a panel at Thinkfest in Goa “The perils of new media are far greater for Hosni Mubarak than for poor old Shashi Tharoor.” And he warned the audience not to get carried away by the hype of social media. Whether in Bahrain or in Iran, the Twitter Revolution didn’t succeed. "A means of communication can never determine the outcome," he said.
Tharoor chatted with FirstPost about what the Anna movement has taught us about communication (or over communication).

Politicians can learn from how Team Anna used social media: Tharoor

Tharoor had some social media advice for the Gandhian and his team. Reuters

What does it mean to have a maun vrat with blogging? Tharoor thinks that’s not so unusual. In fact, he says, Gandhi had his own version of it.

But Gandhi didn’t have 24/7 news channels. Tharoor says Team Anna was able to take full advantage of it. But he also has a warning for Team Anna.

What are the lessons of the Anna movement that political parties are taking away? Tharoor says “Communication is essential to any political movement in the 21st century. It will transform the nature of our democracy but it cannot challenge or unseat democracy itself. It must not be allowed to.”

The question is, is what Team Anna is saying challenging democracy itself. Tharoor is careful to say as a movement it is by no means undemocratic. But he says there’s a red line. “The movement can focus attention on a problem. It can oblige government and lawmakers to focus on a problem. It cannot dictate to them to act other than in what they judge to be their best judgement,” says Tharoor. Hear what he has to say about what he thinks is “anti-democratic” in a democratic movement.

At a time when Manmohan Singh is derided as the Great Uncommunicator, is there also such a thing as too much communication? Isn’t Tharoor the texbook case of the problem of being too media friendly? “My very accessibility to give the media sound bytes became an excuse for them a source of utter opportunity to bring me down,” admits Tharoor. But he says attitudes are changing. Now Tharoor says Congress ministers tell him that instead of using his Twitter fan base they tried to discourage him tweeting.

Any advice for Team Anna going forward? Hear what Tharoor has to say.

Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.

Updated Date: Nov 07, 2011 14:15:53 IST

Also See