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Sushma Swaraj's isolation over Twitter poll on trolling indicates writing on the wall; she must fight her own battle

The results of a Twitter poll, showing that 43 percent of 1,24,305 votes approved of offensive tweets against external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on fast tracking issuance of passport to an interfaith couple, would be hugely discomforting for her. To her credit, she was honest in putting out the results of this online poll, which she herself conducted. Only 57 percent of those who participated said "no" in response to an emotional query asking whether people approved of such tweets.

File image of Union minister Sushma Swaraj. AP

File image of Union minister Sushma Swaraj. AP

Beyond a heated debate on the issue either on social media or outside, what should concern Sushma and her supporters most is a near total silence by the party she belongs to, the BJP, by her ministerial colleagues in the government at the Centre, state chief ministers, ministers and office bearers in the organisation, as also of all quarters of Sangh Parivar. Their silence in this case is more eloquent than words in her support.

Firstpost spoke to some BJP leaders on the issue. It was ironic even while they said they did not wish to react to the issue, they requested anonymity and only agreed to a 'strictly off-record conversation.'

The message is loud and clear for her — in this case, the party and the government is not in her support, open or tacit. She had made it a personal battle and must fight it on her own.

Even worse, there is a feeling among sections of BJP and RSS leaders that her conduct in the present episode has washed away all the good work she had done in the past four years. A seasoned leader like her should have sensed that.

RSS' Delhi prant prachar pramukh Rajiv Tuli, who tweeted on 21 June seeking justice for official Vikas Mishra and said that Swaraj was not above the law, told Firstpost on the developments concerning her Twitter poll that she should have stuck to basic issues and put the matter to an end: "Unko ye samapt karna chahiye tha. Itna lamba kyon kheech rahin hain (by means of a Twitter poll etc). UP Police ki report aa gayi hai, uspar kanoon ke mutabik kaam karna chahiye tha".(She should have brought the matter to an end and should not have dragged the issue, courting fresh controversies through the Twitter poll. The UP Police has submitted its report and the department should have acted as prescribed by law).

The argument that BJP and RSS leaders are making is that she is not the only senior leader in the government or from the party who has been trolled, and that even the prime minister has faced abuse. But nobody has made it an issue like Sushma did. She should have acted as per norms of the passport manual, but for some reasons, the Ministry of External Affairs panicked, bypassed norms, shunted an official and issued the passport in a matter of a few hours. Instead of explaining that, she has diverted the issue to something else, trolling and playing the "victim card."

Party leaders say that the haste shown by the passport officials in Lucknow at the behest of some top functionary in the ministry has not been liked by the core social constituency of the party.

What is ironic is that Sushma is getting support from unlikely quarters, the so-called left liberals. But that is making her case within the party and ideological family even worse.

"The left liberals and secularists are doing it with a purpose. Most people supporting her are known anti-Modi faces. They find it convenient in this case to support Sushma and target Modi and BJP. Though nobody supports the abusive languages used in some of the tweets, some of the issues raised in those tweets are very valid. They should have been answered. Instead, she is digressing and making something else as an issue. Does Sushmaji realise that in 2019, she will need the support of the party’s core constituency, their hard work and their good wishes? The left-liberals will desert her then," an RSS functionary said.

A BJP leader said Swaraj failed to assess how things, including the official and political discourse, have changed under the Narendra Modi government. "Politics of polemics and rhetoric has been replaced by politics of facts, data and accountability. Therefore you will see that BJP leaders, including Modi ji, speak of data about works done, shauchalayas, Saubhagya Yojana, Mudra Yojana, etc. Sushmaji helps Indians aboard, providing immediate relief, and everybody appreciates that. But this time around she erred on an issue, on which she should have been straightforward." What is agitating them the most is the sense that some tweets that allege discrimination against minorities can send the Modi government into a tizzy, and force a panic reaction.

Around the time Modi assumed office of the prime minister and prior to that, there was a certain trust deficit between Modi and Sushma. She wanted the Ministry of External Affairs and got it. With the passage of time and with her good work in the ministry, she bridged that gap. The foreign policy remained PMO-driven, but Modi gave Sushma her due, praising her on various platforms, including in the Parliament.

So far, there is no indication that the current controversy has impacted that trust. But the way the party stood by her during the IPL-Lalit Modi controversy is surely missing in the present context.


Updated Date: Jul 02, 2018 21:05 PM

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