In a case of ‘he who laughs last, laughs best’, the Aam Aadmi Party has again proven its social media might by turning around the internet’s ridicule of Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘signature’ muffler into a promotional campaign with the help of a Twitter hashtag — #MufflerMan.
Kejriwal's all-winter muffler and his constant coughing stood out during the AAP‘s campaign for the Delhi assembly elections last winter, though not positively. They were liberally used by social media users to deride the former Delhi CM whose government quit after being in power for just 49 days in the capital.
The AAP noticed the #MufflerMan trend catching on last Wednesday when Twitter users began posting Kejriwal’s ‘muffler photos’ portraying him as Delhi’s saviour and an anti-corruption crusader. The hashtag has since been sitting pretty at the top of the Twitter India trends-list.
The party was quick to use the Twitter trend to its advantage by retweeting several posts by AAP volunteers who used photo memes, cartoons and movie posters to push the hashtag. In one such case, Benjamin Walker's face was replaced with Kejriwal's on the movie poster of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’. “Fear is Near”, the tagline of the poster read.
One poster also compared Kejriwal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking people to choose between the ‘blufferman’ and the ‘mufflerman’.
AAP member Gul Panag, too, joined the rage on Friday last: “#MufflerMan because in the cold wilderness- prevention IS better than cure.”
With the hashtag’s popularity growing each passing day, other popular Twitter handles started picking it up. @TheTweetOfGod, which has 1.68 million followers and is known for its comic tweets on a wide range of issues from across the world, wrote: “India, I wanted to offer a free spot in heaven to any of you who would follow Me, but #MufflerMan said that would be corruption.” The post was subsequently deleted without any explanation or disclaimer.
Kejriwal has also been illustrated as popular superheroes including Spiderman and Superman in various tweets. So, what does Kejriwal think about the trend? “He smiles whenever it comes up,” said Arvind Jha, a technology and social media volunteer with the AAP.
“It's amazing,” he said, adding the viral phenomenon was accidental “and volunteer-driven”. The AAP’s supporters started the trend because the popular sentiment was that the party chief was being unfairly targetted as the attacks based on ‘coughing and his dressing style’ were below the belt, he explained.
The party maintains it never intended for the hashtag to be a part of their official campaign and copy-editors or graphic-designers were not involved.
Ankit Lal, who heads the AAP's social media cell, posted that Twitter should conduct a case study on the hashtag and its continuing success.
The popularity of the hashtag has evoked an unprecedented response from AAP supporters, several of whom have changed their profile names to #MufflerMan or Muffler Man on Twitter.