At 9.58pm on June 7, a post by Punjab deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal appeared on his official Facebook page: “Give me one suggestion on what the Punjab government should do to change your life? I may not be able to respond to each of you but I will read each one.”
In less than 24 hours, it had more than 8,000 comments, and now Sukhbir must either be regretting putting it up or mulling some serious changes within the party and government. A host of replies demanded that he and his family leave their chairs. Sample this: “When u will give up ur greed n selfishness, and start doing your job properly, lives in Punjab would become better anyway” (sic). Another read: “Badal must leave India for once. And should never return…”
Sukhbir’s page has existed for long and has more than 5 lakh ‘likes’ or followers. But it has earlier been limited to the poll campaign and appeals for votes. His wife and MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, too, has a similar page. As for the BJP, even though the party used social media to good effect nationally, the alliance lagged online in Punjab.
In that context, this interactive post by the deputy CM comes after the SAD-BJP alliance fared rather poorly in the Lok Sabha polls — the SAD stayed at its 2009 tally of four out of 13,while the BJP improved its tally from one to two. The blame was put by observers, as well as by the BJP, on the anti-incumbency generated by the Badal clan’s alleged patronage to the drug and sand mafia.
In fact, the Badals were the favourite whipping target on Facebook, a trend fanned and leveraged well by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that won all its four seats in Punjab. Sukhbir, while terming the Aam Aadmi Part y ( AAP) a “virus”, had said at the SAD’s recent poll review meeting that the party had failed to manage its social media profile and needed to make amends. As he sought to lead by example, the move boomeranged.
On the bright side, there were some constructive demands too, most pertaining to corruption, while some wanted to discuss things at length.
For instance, one reply read: “Punjab needs change in every field… hard to explain all in this… so pls send me ur email or contact no.”
And jobless teachers, besides phar macists and other unionists, appear to have a strong voice online, with a host of comments demanding salary parity and regular jobs.
There was some praise for his interactive post and some for even the government.
One user posted: “Being a resident of Punjab, I personally believe that we are living in the best part of the country. Where development meets culture and citizens are given full rights of the Constitution and enjoy freedom. Development can only be compared when we look back 8-10 years when there was no electricity, no industry.” For better or worse, Sukhbir’s post opened a can of worms.
Meanwhile, the Punjab Congress and its leaders continue to use social media only for self-promotion and posturing at key times.