'Social media sparked Anna movement, can lead to demise too'

"Utilise the power of social media", was Gaurav Bakshi’s first response to Arvind Kejriwal, when the latter asked him if he would like to be a part of something big in the making.
That was in December 2010.

In the months to come, the US returned Bakshi would become the TV savvy voice of the Lokpal movement and quoted in press as someone who managed social media for Team Anna - a task for which he does not take credit for, saying that it was done by fellow Team member Shivendra Singh Chauhan.

But in his individual capacity, Bakshi used Facebook to disseminate Team Anna’s message to the masses.

 Social media sparked Anna movement, can lead to demise too

Gaurav Bakshi, third from left, on stage with Anna Hazare during Lokpal movement: Photo courtesy, Gaurav Bakshi

But now, even as Team Anna launches another indefinite fast, Bakshi is home. Two days ago, he received a legal notice from Prashan Bhushan, a member of Team Anna’s core committee.

The legal notice dated 22 July, 2012, accuses Bakshi of giving misleading statements about the movement to the press, and trying to discredit the movement on social media. “This is how friends talk these days... through legal notices,” said Bakshi, in his first interview after receiving the legal notice.

On a more serious note, he refuted the points made in the notice on which he is consulting his lawyers.

Baskhi said he was never asked by Arvind Kejriwal to create a Facebook page for himself and Anna Hazare, as the notice claimed.

“For months, I told Arvind and other members of the Team that they must utilize social media to the fullest. When they did not do it, I created 15-20 community fan pages for the movement and some for Team members. These were all unofficial community or fan pages. On Facebook, anyone can create such pages for anyone. Broadly there were two types of posts on these pages- news coverage of the movement and statements of Team members,” said Bakshi.

Bakshi said that Team Anna’s lack of understanding of social media is the reason why his relationship with the movement is not as cordial as it was in the initial months of the agitation. If they understood that the fan community page could be created by anyone and there were thousands of such pages on Facebook, they would not have taken recourse in legal notices, he said. “Social media sparked the movement and it can lead to the demise of the movement too.”

On hindsight, he said it might be his opposition to the way the movement was running, that went against him. He would not reveal what specifically he disagreed with. He kept it limited to, “I have nothing personal against any IAC member. But I have issues with the strategy of the movement.”

The legal notice also claims that Bakshi was very keen to become a member of the core committee formed in Ralegaon, Maharashtra in September 2011. “On several occasions you insisted that you should be included in the core committee", it says.

Rubbishing the claims, Bakshi said on the morning of 8 September, 2011, he even called Kejriwal to convey that he has no desire to be included in the core committee, and his role was to make sure that there was smooth flow of communication within Team Anna, as well as between the team and the media.

The notice further alleges that when Bakshi could not become part of the core committee, he started giving misleading statements in media. It cites a Times of India Crest story published in September 2011 which quoted Bakshi as saying that he used to write Kejriwal’s speeches and press releases.

“I just told the reporter that occasionally, Arvind takes my help in writing his messages and in drafting communication material for the movement. But the article makes you believe that I was actually writing all his speeches. I have an email apology on the same from the reporter who wrote that article,” said Bakshi, adding that he discussed the news item with Kejriwal and it was never a point of contention. “He (Kejriwal) knows how media works. He asked me forget it and move on. But now they are using it against me,” he said.

To avoid any legal action, Bakshi will have to hand over the administrative access of Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi's Facebook pages back to them. “I have been told that they approached Facebook to get ownership of the pages, but the company refused. One needs to understand that it not their pages which I overtook or high-jacked. I created them out of my own will", said Bakshi.

He added that there was nothing on any of the pages that had not already been published in the press, or said by Team Anna members. "My only objective was to put news items and statements of Team members on these pages.” Bakshi said. “Since these were not the official page of the movement, there were articles and statements in favour of the movement and against it like it is done on any independent media forum,” he added.

Now when it has become a standoff of sort, will we see Gaurav Bakshi at the protests like before? “IAC is not a registered organization. Hence, none can claim ownership. It is as much their struggle as it is mine. It is a people’s movement.”

Updated Date: Jul 27, 2012 12:30:05 IST