Saturday, February 24, 2018
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Poor Mr. Home minister, always in the news for wrong reasons.  Alas, everything could not be managed by earning buttery points from Madam.  In this era of electronic media when everything a politician utter is recorded and amplified, political parties go to great lengths to put people with great articulation skills at the job of party spokespersons.  The ministers too have teams that tell them what to say and what not to say, lest they get into trouble and get their bosses or party in trouble.  However, despite all this, there are some who suffer from foot-in-mouth disease and no help from their team can rescue them, often.  Our home minister Sushil Shinde falls in this category, except, he could be termed a serial offender.  The genial Shinde, who has a history of gaffes, has just added another feather to his cap, two, in fact.

Upset with the media for what he alleges are willful distortions to show Congress party in a poor light and indulging in false propaganda against the party, he said he will crush the electronic media.  If this was, by now familiar, foot-in-mouth statement, even though it exposed his real intent, he promptly put his second foot in his mouth with the explanation that followed is that he did not mean the news channels, but meant the social media.  Here is the home minister of what is supposedly the largest democracy in the world, threatening to silence, indeed 'crush' the media that does things against his party, and when he faces flak from the media, does a U turn and says his target is not the electronic, but the social media.

The rapidly growing in size and importance social media is the closest to a real uninhibited media that one can have.  His own party, just as every other political party, is going all out to woo this savvy, upwardly mobile, young and new voter base that has made social media its home.  It is the voter base that is far more powerful than the mere numbers would indicate, simply due to the immense opinion shaping power it possesses.  As per the Internet and Mobile Association of India, there are 91 million social media users in India. It may just be 8% of the population, but it has the ability to swing almost 3-4% votes in the 24 states where Internet usage is sizable.

If one is to make a comparison, social media is the electronic version of the 'dhaba' or coffee home conversation, which is uninhibited, where people say it the way it is.  It helps shape and form opinions among those involved in the discussions. People can be influenced.  Crushing it is as difficult as crushing a coffee home chatter.  So what is it that Shinde meant when he said he will crush not the electronic, but the social media? It can be one of the three.  One, he does not understand its importance, which would be both sad and strange.  Two, his articulation is atrocious, which perhaps it is.  Or three, it shows the mind-set of someone who looks at himself as the Lord and master who has been elected by us to rule over us, not provide governance.  While any of the three would be bad, in this case, it seems to be a combination of all, which is scary too!  One really hopes the nation's home minister did not have any draconian thoughts in mind when he let out his intent.  For, if it is, it will come back to haunt him.  The social media is uninhibited, as I said, but it can be brutal and ruthless too.

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