Chouhan’s newfound aggression on Twitter

Shivraj S Chouhan Shivraj S Chouhan

“Manmohanji in government and Soniaji in politics read speeches because if they speak their minds they would be speechless.’’

“Aisa bhi kya bolna ki bolna pade ki bola tha’’

“There are reasons to believe that Prime Minister was not silent by nature. He was asked to keep mum.’’

These and other tweets taking potshots at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh originated from Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the weeks before campaigning closed, a U-turn from his earlier stand that it was not in his nature to lower the dignity of the high office.

If many insist that the 2014 elections were the most bitterly fought in India’s history, few would have expected the 55-year-old Chouhan to shun his usual style of avoiding direct confrontation. The tweets, highly uncharacteristic of Chouhan, seem to have uncovered a hidden talent.

This was the same Chouhan who refrained from ridiculing the PM saying it was not in his nature to lower the dignity of the high office. When Time Magazine labelled Dr Singh ‘The Underachiever’, Chouhan had said the international publication had no business doing it.

Chouhan’s aggression is distinctly different from his first two terms, particularly his truncated maiden stint from November 2005 to 2008, when he rarely raised his voice and was careful not to offend anyone, especially bureaucrats.

His Congress rivals say power is going to his head.

The former ABVP leader would not take on Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi unlike his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi. Even Chouhan’s rivals did not criticise him the way they slammed Modi or Uma Bharati.

During public rallies, Chouhan targeted the Gandhis and the PM but it’s his twitter account that is full of colorful criticism of rivals he would once avoid even naming.

Tongue in cheek, at times verbose and pompous, his tweets show he seems to have spent a lot of time on the micro-blogging site, or else had authorised someone he trusts to do it. Unlike earlier, most of his tweets are in English.

He joined Twitter a little over a year ago, much after his counterparts in the party and outside, and on last count had tweeted more than 2,200 times. On some days, he has a dozen or more tweets .

But it’s the variety that is striking. He had begun on a sedate note using the site to highlight his government’s achievements or congratulate award winners and remember freedom fighters and historical figures. His 2.78 lakh followers pale in comparison to Modi’s 3.97 million followers but are far ahead of his Chhattisgarh counterpart Dr Raman Singh’s 1.19 lakh followers.

“Some people talked of intellectual arrogance of a trio in UPA, I disagree. In fact they humbly allowed being dictated by a 10th pass,’’ Chouhan tweeted recently without elaborating on his target. It would have created a furore had it come from Modi.

Chouhan hasn’t spared the Election Commission either of India and accused it of using separate yardsticks and called the Model Code of Conduct vexatious.’’

“In the case of BJP, even intention is worthy of raid. In the case of Rahul, commission of wrongdoing is open but eyes and mouths are shut,’’ he tweeted on May 11.

On May 10, he tweeted, “When Sonia Gandhi accuses Modiji of using money in campaigning, I wonder if she does it.’’

Though exit polls, barring one by a major English channel, painted a rosy picture for BJP in Madhya Pradesh, May 16 will prove whether Chouhan’s newfound aggression is here to stay. His tweets are full of praise for Modi and the Gujarat model of development. The BJP’s PM candidate, campaigning in MP, had gone the extra mile to admire Chouhan.