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Monday, July 16, 2018

Inside Track: Not so tweet

Sushma Swaraj was crudely and unfairly trolled by the Hindutva brigade because a Lucknow passport officer was summarily transferred on the basis of a tweet that he humiliated a Hindu-Muslim couple.

Written by Coomi Kapoor | Updated: July 1, 2018 12:04:22 am
A couple who tweeted to the External Affairs Minister for an immediate passport because they had planned a honeymoon in Turkey were later found to have been married for several years. (Express photo)

Not so tweet

Sushma Swaraj was crudely and unfairly trolled by the Hindutva brigade because a Lucknow passport officer was summarily transferred on the basis of a tweet that he humiliated a Hindu-Muslim couple. Later, investigations suggested that the couple, who had irregularities in their application forms, might have misrepresented the facts. Swaraj may not have been involved in this particular case, but it highlights the pitfalls of dispensing instant justice on the basis of tweets.

A couple who tweeted to the External Affairs Minister for an immediate passport because they had planned a honeymoon in Turkey were later found to have been married for several years. Singer Adnan Sami tweeted that the Kuwaiti authorities had called his staff ‘Indian dogs’. Swaraj responded sympathetically and asked the singer to call her.

Later, her tweet was deleted, presumably because there were holes in Sami’s story. The government rushed two planes to South Sudan because Indians there had tweeted for help. But the planes came back half empty since peace returned to the region and most of the complainants decided to stay on.

In Saudi Arabia, some workers tweeted they were being detained in labour camps without pay. Despite a supportive response from the Indian side, few actually wanted to return. The Saudi government was annoyed by the Indian attitude. Hassled MEA officials say privately that it makes better sense for all tweets to be referred to a grievance committee which can first check out the veracity of the claims rather than providing instant relief.

Soft secularism

Some old-timers in the Congress are apprehensive that in a bid to play the soft Hindutva card, the Congress is forgetting its core secular ideology, including even avoiding mentioning the term ‘secular’. It was noticed that both Rahul Gandhi at his iftar party and Kamal Nath at the Idgah in Bhopal did not want to be photographed in Islamic headgear, something they had never shied from in the past. On the other hand, there were objections to party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala comparing Narendra Modi to a ‘brutal dictator’ like Aurangzeb. Earlier, the Congress had protested against the BJP’s decision to rename Aurangzeb Road in Delhi, recalling the Mughul ruler’s many plus points.

Exploring avenues

The Congress seems to be keeping all its options open in Tamil Nadu, much to the annoyance of traditional ally the DMK. Actor Kamal Haasan, who has thrown his hat into the electoral ring, came to Delhi and met Rahul Gandhi as well as Priyanka and Sonia. Haasan, in fact, got an audience with Sonia on her return from abroad before even her own party members. Stalin feels that Haasan should have used the DMK, as it is the senior party in the state, as an intermediary with the Congress.

Equally distressing was Rahul’s meeting with important SC leader Thol Thirumavalavan, who heads the VCK party, three months ago. The Congress seems slightly chary of the DMK since the party lost its deposit in the R K Nagar Assembly seat last year. The Congress backroom boys pointed out that though Jayalalithaa represented the constituency, Chennai has traditionally been a DMK stronghold. Stalin’s brother M K Alagiri remarked that even if all the DMK cadres had voted, the party would not have lost its deposit.

Two Birthdays

August 20 could turn out to be the next flashpoint for the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka. It is not just the birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, but also of the late Devaraj Urs, once Congress CM, who was JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda’s bitter foe. When Siddaramaiah walked out of Deve Gowda’s party in 2006, as a snub to Gowda, he promoted the cult of Urs, declaring him to be the true leader of the social justice movement. As CM, Siddaramaiah instituted a Devaraj Urs Award, which is bestowed with much fanfare on August 20.

The CM makes the selection and Siddaramaiah’s choices were invariably critics of Gowda. H D Kumaraswamy as CM will be in charge of the selection this year. Chances are he focuses on Rajiv’s memory and ignores his father’s late rival. But could Siddaramaiah have an ace up his sleeve on that day?

Prodigals preferred

Departing Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha P J Kurien is furious that his party is not renewing his Rajya Sabha nomination and an outsider, K M Mani, leader of the KC(M), will get Congress support. A parliamentary veteran, Kurien, 77, is now planning a tell-all book. Mani very recently rejoined the UDF and state Congresspersons grumble that now prodigals get preference over long-time loyalists.

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