As the year 2017 draws to a close, something seems to have gone amiss. Amid the cacophony over a slew of political issues, one voice, which was loud, bold and sometimes jarring, has sobered down. At least on the social media. It was a voice that launched vituperative attacks on its opponents at the drop of a hat. And it was a voice that was often received with derision and massive trolling.
Sample these tweets:
नोट नहीं, PM बदलो
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 21, 2016
This was Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) national convener, towards the end of 2016. No such hard-hitting and direct barbs were thrown our way this time around.
Kejriwal began making himself scarce on the social media, read Twitter, since the summer, when he faced drubbings in Punjab and Goa elections. He had claimed victories in both states and made grand announcements about testing waters in other states.
“We accept people’s mandate. All volunteers worked hard. Our struggle will continue,” Kejriwal had tweeted. It was quite meek by his standards.
The sting wasn’t entirely gone still. Just two days before the Delhi MCD elections in April, Kejriwal, in his characteristic style, targeted BJP.
He said: “If your children get dengue or chikungunya, then you yourself will be responsible for it, because you voted for a party that spreads mosquitoes that breed dengue or chikungunya.”
But that was about it.
Even in the time when the discourse over pollution was at its peak and stubble burning in Chandigarh and Haryana was said to be one of the reasons, Kejriwal’s Twitter timeline did not become toxic in the face of toxic pollution. It was a mellow Kejriwal who tagged Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh asking the latter to “spare” some time in public interest. “@capt_amarinder Sir, I am coming to Chandigarh on Wed to meet Haryana CM. Would be grateful if u cud spare sometime to meet me. It is in collective interest. (sic)” is what he tweeted.
Kejriwal seems to have changed his style of politics where he was often seen waving papers in the air against those who are in power. Ambanis, Adanis, Jaitley, Modi, Shah; all have disappeared from Kejriwal’s hitlist.
In fact, his social media game is restricted largely to retweets and fewer but measured original tweets.
What made him go silent? Or has he learnt to pick his battles carefully? Whatever be the case, Kejriwal must have realised the importance of silence. The consistent attack on the BJP, especially on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has caused a great damage to the Brand Kejriwal.
Political analysts say the image of a ‘mufflerman’ did certainly help Kejriwal win Delhi elections for the simple reason that it was unprecedented in the Indian politics to see an average-looking man challenging the powerful with their names. His ability to switch to a common man’s tongue — ‘kyon ji’, galat bol raha hoon ji?’ — is nonetheless appealing.
But his persistent and excessive blame game perhaps gave the impression of an inexperienced leader. The damage was done in the form of several political defeats where losing Punjab with a close margin was the biggest setback to him and the party. Defeat in Delhi Municipal Corporation (MCD) was another big blow.
However, amid all this, the Kejriwal-led AAP government had been on its toes for development works in Delhi. The kind of swiftness and cost-effectiveness in the government system that Kejriwal’s rule has brought is commendable, and the same is documented in the just-released documentary- An Insignificant Man.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other world leaders have lauded the AAP government’s mohalla clinics initiative for providing free primary health care. Annan had said the initiative was “consistent with the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goal” of the World Health Organisation. Some of the states, including Karnataka, is thinking of emulating Delhi government’s schemes.
The year 2017 will be marked in history for Kejriwal’s political loss as a blessing in disguise if he continues to be focused on development works and not on the act of rabble-rousing. The AAP chief seems to be on a mission of restoring people’s faith and his image of a man of deeds. He has realised, maybe a bit late, that holding PM Modi or the Lieutenant Governor responsible for everything, is no longer working in his favour. It has been his biggest takeaway from the entire episode of the politics of verbal confrontations on social media.
The advantage of silence is already showing. It was not him but people and a section of media who raised questions when he was not invited to the Delhi Metro Magenta Line inauguration by the Prime Minister and the Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath on December 25. It even worked in Kejriwal’s favour when the LG turned down Delhi government’s plan of Doorstep Delivery of services.
With almost two years of his tenure left, Kejriwal & co. must stick to their single-minded approach to development. The year 2018 has more political face-offs in store with 8 states (Nagaland, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh) going to elections. Only a cool, composed and calculative Kejriwal will have chances to emerge triumphant. For, in this age of post-truth, there is no space for those who don’t care about their image on social media.