Lok Sabha member Tathagata Satpathy has gone "viral" on the web, not for a foot-in-mouth moment or an absent sense of humour. He won numerous fans by inviting people to "ask him anything" on Reddit, the user-generated social media forum, and then took the grilling sportingly.
The MP from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), who represents Dhenkanal constituency of Odisha, was witty from the word go. His very first response earned him brownie points for a reference to Pink Floyd.
User Eepsu asked Satpathy about his party’s take on decriminalising the use of cannabis.
Pat came the MP’s reply: "BJD's election manifesto definitely did not contain anything on cannabis. While in college, I have smoked (and unlike Clinton have inhaled) cannabis many a times. In villages of Orissa, many people openly smoke and, as their representative, I am not entitled to be judgmental."
He added: "BTW cannabis, luckily, is legal in certain states in India, like Orissa. You can walk up to a government excise shop and buy your day's need."
In a smart move, Satpathy disclosed while announcing the Reddit session that his views “should definitely not be attributed to those of my party and leadership. I am answering these questions as a citizen of India. All views expressed here are personal."
His mother Nandini Satpathy served as chief minister of Odisha during 1972-76. His father Devendra Satpathy was a politician and represented the same constituency.
Satpathy was helped by members of his policy team, notably user Kumbhakaran. It was clear that the MP had done his homework to ensure an efficiently coordinated chat.
Other highlights of the session were its informal natural and Satpathy's well-thought out responses.
"I believe this could prove to be a game changer for public participation in policy," Kumbhkaran wrote on Reddit.
Satpathy is in the company of noted individuals like US President Barack Obama, pop star Madonna and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who fielded questions from the International Space Station. Obama's AMA is the highest rated yet and brought down many parts of Reddit due to a spike in traffic to the site.