While the Maharashtra’s internet-savvy electorate has not spared any political party of criticism, it is the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) leaders’ foot-in-the-mouth comments that got most flak on social media in the run-up to the assembly elections.
According to police officials monitoring social media, senior leaders of the party, especially the Pawars, have been at the receiving end of maximum criticism. From Ajit Pawar’s remark on dams running dry in April last year to RR Patil’s latest one on rape, social media regulars as well as those handling accounts of rival political parties made sure to use them to kick up a storm. Party chief Sharad Pawar, too, was not spared for his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Mumbai police had set up a social media cell to monitor online activity after a Facebook post on Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray had led to trouble in Palghar, Thane, in 2012. Additionally, during the Lok Sabha elections, a helpline (9820810007) was started for citizens to register complaints.
Among other senior politicians being criticised online are Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah, Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi and Modi. Interestingly, apart from a few potshots at scam-tainted UPA leaders, the Congress faced least flak.
While Uddhav has been targeted as the Sena rules the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Shah has been target by Sena supporters. Although Raj Thackeray has been criticized, netizens have been careful about their comments on him because of aggressive Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers.
While former Congress ministers Narayan Rane and Patangrao Kadam have been criticised, former CM Prithiviraj Chavan’s clean image seems to have balanced it out for the party, police sources said. “Most parties have social media teams to tackle online spats," the source said, adding that everyone had been careful with their comments to neither incite mobs nor land in legal trouble.
In the past, the police have had to delete “objectionable” posts over fear of violence, but this time no such action has been taken, sources in the Mumbai police said.