India was confused. #PoMoneModi was trending on Twitter, but beyond the Western Ghats, most had no clue what it meant. Yet there was no such confusion in the little strip of land between the mountain ranges and the Arabian Sea. Kerala had taken to social media with one-liners and memes to tell the world it was not accepting the comparison with Somalia, at least not without a 140-character fight.
The trend started Wednesday in reaction to Prime Minister Narendra Modi comparing Kerala with Somalia at an election rally in the state.
“Yahan Keral ki janjaati, janta, ST Scheduled Tribe, usmey jo child death ratio hai, Somalia se bhi sthiti khatarnaak hai… Abhi kuchh din pehle… media mein dardnaak chitra dekhney ko mila…Jo Communist party ka qila maana jaata hai, jahaan voh hamesha jeet-ti hai, us Peravoor mein Scheduled Tribe ke baalak koode ke dher mein bhojan talaash kar rahe hain, yeh media mein prakaashit hua hai,” Modi said.
(“The situation with the child death ratio among Scheduled Tribes in Kerala is scarier than even Somalia. Recently, one came across a tragic picture in the media. In Peravoor, which is seen as a stronghold of the Communist party, where it has always won, there, Scheduled Tribe children were seen foraging for food in a garbage dump… it has appeared in the media.”)
As Chief Minister Oommen Chandy wrote to the PM objecting to the statement, thousands of tweets were being posted with the #PoMoneModi hashtag.
As the day progressed, #PoMoneModi clocked over 40,000 tweets with a reach of 7,452,648, according to keyhole.co which tracks hashtags.
The hashtag was a play on one of the most popular dialogues in Malayalam cinema — Mohanlal’s “nee po mone Dinesha’’ from Narasimham. It is a subtle way of asking someone to get lost, in this case the villain of the movie.
The dialogue was a rage when the movie released in 2000 and still rings a bell with every Malayali, at least those in the voting age. In fact, the line was so popular that it was immortalised as a song, again picturised on Mohanlal, last year.
Ranjith, who wrote dialogues for the movie, refused to comment on the Twitter trend, but said the original dialogue was based on something his late friend Dr Satyanarayana used to say often. “The fact that something written so long ago reverberates in Kerala even now is a tribute to the man who passed away last month,” he told The Indian Express.
Tinu Cherian Abraham, the Bangalore-based PR professional who with his quarter of a million followers could have been instrumental in making the hashtag trend, said: “When you go to a state and ask for their votes, you don’t insult them as ‘a Beemaru state’ or compare them to Somalia. The voters of Bihar have reacted. This unwanted rhetoric is going to cost BJP. Malayalis have very high self-pride.”
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor offered his own translation in a tweet: “North Indian media offering literal translations of #PoMoneModi. But it really connotes “get lost, kid”!”
A lot of humour was also being spun around Kerala being Somalia. One of the most popular tweets was a meme showing a traditional Kerala snakeboat race, with text suggesting that Modi viewed this as “a bunch of Somali pirates in training”.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted: “Somalia’s HDI is 0.285 (ranking: 229), Kerala’s is 0.712. India’s ONLY high HDI state, it’d rank 104 globally. So much for the comparison.” He also tweeted a chart that showed Kerala way above the India HDI average.
Somalia’s HDI is 0.285 (ranking: 229), Kerala’s is 0.712. India’s ONLY high HDI state, it’d rank 104 globally. So much for the comparison.
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) May 11, 2016
In a Facebook post, CPM politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan said the comparison with Somalia was a result of the vengeance BJP had towards Kerala where it has not been able to spread its roots. In the long post, he also reminded Modi that Gujarat was placed fifteenth in the Human Development Index.
Salman Soz of the Congress tweeted a combo showing images of a Somali town and a Kathakali artist in front of lush green fields with the text: “Dear Modiji: Since you seem confused, here is a friend showing you what Somalia looks like.”
He is the PM who has been most concerned for the development of our state in the last 69 years #KeralaThanksModi
— KummanamRajasekharan (@Kummanam) May 11, 2016
Though there was no direct counter from the BJP on social media, party state chief Kummanam Rajashekharan tweeted that Modi is “the PM who has been most concerned for the development of our state in the last 69 years #KeralaThanksModi”.
Clearly, the last tweet on this subject hasn’t been fired yet.