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Social media turns nonpoliticians into unofficial spokespersons for political parties

July 22, 2013

By Sruthijith KK

NEW DELHI: In June 2012, when Mumbai homemaker Priti Gandhi was travelling to Ahmedabad to visit the Akshardham temple, she called Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s office and requested an appointment, which was promptly granted. On the appointed day, when Modi’s secretary told him he had a 2pm appointment with Mrs Gandhi, the CM looked up in surprise, and said a background check be done on the visitor.

He was kidding, of course. Modi knew his guest from Twitter. The conspicuous catchiness of a handle named @MrsGandhi vigorously supporting Modi and BJP, and taking on Congress supporters in the frequently messy high-decibel battles on Twitter, had helped Gandhi gain numerous followers. Her effectiveness was noted by BJP’s communication cell, which reached out to her and enlisted her to volunteer.

Gandhi now appears on TV debates representing the party, works with the local BJP corporator and is planning to organise a rally for professionals in Mumbai, featuring Narendra Modi. “From a very normal background, social media has helped me reach a stage where I’m doing active work for BJP. I’m visiting slums to understand voting patterns. Now Twitter is only a small part of what I do,” Gandhi said.

Priti Gandhi’s banker husband, from whom she gets her surname, is not very keen about her political activism.

Gandhi is among a new wave of supporters that are self-selecting themselves for party politics through social media. Many who have consolidated a base of followers on Twitter are seen as unofficial spokespersons for the parties they support. They get invited to television debates and are gradually building a public profile independent of their day jobs.

For many, what began as a distraction has grown to consume most of their free time. Those who were always interested in politics but found that their strengths were not useful in college or thuggish local politics, have found a meaningful way to engage in the battle of ideas and wits. And for those who commit themselves to it, the rough and tumble of nasty Twitter fights can effectively approximate the friction of local politics. Read the rest in The Economic Times.


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