Bengal BJP banks on social media to spread its message
Dilip Ghosh, BJP’s state unit chief, however, is enjoying this negative publicity and is confident that their social media teams are able enough to take the ‘positive message’ to ‘every household.’kolkata Updated: Apr 25, 2017 17:52 IST
The celebration of Ram Navami with unprecedented fanfare and display of weapons has earned the Bengal unit of BJP a great deal of media coverage, mostly critical, and almost all major vernacular news outlets have accused the party of trying to vitiate the socio-religious culture of the state. Dilip Ghosh, BJP’s state unit chief, however, is enjoying this negative publicity and is confident that their social media teams are able enough to take the ‘positive message’ to ‘every household.’
“Let them be critical of us. We never got mainstream Bengali media’s support anyway but now they can no longer ignore us. You see, they are reporting my speeches every day. And as of taking our real message to the people, our social media teams are working hard and we have quite a strong social media team,” Ghosh told HT.
Ghosh himself has been at the centre of majority of the controversies. From championing the idea of display of weapons and a show of the ‘Hindus’ strength’ and calling the controversy of Ram Navami celebration as a battle between ‘Ramzadas and Haramzadas’ to commenting that people criticising the display of weapons on Ram Navami should be ‘kicked out’ of the borders on Bangladesh and Pakistan – Ghosh has been dominating the headlines most for his remarks attracting widespread criticism.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh veteran, who had also led the Bengal unit of Hindu Jagran Manch, however, is least bothered with the negative propaganda. Rather, they are happy that the media’s all-out criticism of the saffron brand of hard-line Hindutva is making the ‘BJP vs all’ polarisation sharper.
“The mainstream media did not report on communal riots in many places across the state, including those in Kaliachawk, Kanchrapara and Dhulagarh, until our people flooded the social media with the real story. It’s good that Bengali media’s true character is getting exposed and people are getting to see that it is only BJP that represents the interests of the Hindus,” Ghosh said.
There are many to certify that saffron propaganda has started dominating discourses on such social media channels as Facebook and WhatsApp. The propaganda mostly comprised opinion pieces or ‘research work’ stressing on Bengali Hindus’ proximity with the Hindi heartland against its cultural bond with Muslim-majority Bangladesh, explaining why Bengali Hindus need to unite against ‘Muslim aggression’ and how the Left, the Trinamool and the Congress all are ‘anti-Hindu’.
According to public health researcher and blogger Ipsita Pal, people expressing strong pro-Hindutva and anti-secular opinions have entered every possible forum for free discussion and changed the discourse and many of them with fake profiles. She is also one of those behind the web portal guruchandali.com, which has about 42,000 members. The portal is known for encouraging free expression and maintaining minimal moderation policy.
“We are principally against banning and tried to stretch the boundary of freedom of expression as far as possible. But finally we had to announce a ban on hate speech. Besides, there are a few thousand membership requests pending and a few hundred are estimated to be from fake profiles,” she added.
Trinamool Congress, too, has identified increasing saffron propaganda on social media as a potential threat but is yet to decide on any policy to counter it. “We are taking time. We do not want to hurt the sentiments of the majority Hindus while combating the Hindutva propaganda. The chief minister is discussing the issue with people from various ranges. In general, our leaders and workers are spreading the message of peace and communal harmony through social media,” a senior Trinamool Congress minister said on the condition of anonymity.
Such Left Front leaders as CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra and the leader of its parliamentary party in the state Assembly, Sujan Chakraborty, have several times expressed concerns of increasing saffron influence in social media. “We have not drawn any specific policy to counter the saffron propaganda but we are stressing on spreading the message of communal harmony and raising people’s socio-economic issues,” Chakraborty said.