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Surviving on Twitter: Bhagat, Tharoor tell how

Writer and politician Shashi Tharoor get talking about the good, bad and ugly of getting famous on Twitter. 'I'm the Rakhi Sawant of literature," says Bhagat about why he is attending the Jaipur Lit Fest. Sonakshi Babbar writes.

books Updated: Jan 22, 2012 19:46 IST
Sonakshi Babbar

Writer Chetan Bhagat and politician Shashi Tharoor count lakhs of followers on Twitter but not all of them are devoted fans.

The two get abused, threatened and mocked on Twitter but they have survived. "Abuse is being heaped on me even as we talk right now. People are asking why I am at a literature festival since my work is not literature. Just the way Shashi Tharoor is the Rakhi Sawant of politics, I'm the Rakhi Sawant of literature," Bhagat said at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Sunday.

Twitter has its uses but it also tends to bring out negativity in people. "Since it is free for all, Twitter has become a negative medium. The negativity is not very high in number, but it's only the bad tweets which get attention and national acclaim," said Bhagat at session called Survival Strategies in the Time of Twitterati.

"Twitter is a very noisy place; I really want a moderator on Twitter. I want to make a Meira Kumar app on twitter which says 'baith jaiye baith jaiye whenever there's a fight'," he said referring to the Lok Sabha Speaker's famous style of appealing to agitated MPs.

Twitter, which is in the running for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, has charmed Tharoor so much that he doesn't mind the occasional brickbats. The former minister recalled his controversial "cattle class" tweet which he thought was witty retort to a journalist's question but led to him being accused of being insensitive.

"The cattle-class tweet was my most notorious mistake. It was just a bit of Stephan-ian repartee to a question asked by a journalist, but in India people didn't know that meaning of the expression or the context. I was immediately denounced as someone who thinks economy class as cattle."

As a politician with 1.2 million Twitter followers, he knows well his responsibility and expectations as a public figure.

"Twitter is an interactive Akashwani and a great broadcasting medium. Find me an audience who would turn away a following of 1.2 million people for anything he wants so I get to share my thoughts and concern on whole range of issues and get feedback and public opinion. Twitter becomes complicated for likes of me because I'm in a public space as a politician and at the same time on a public forum to express private opinion."

Tharoor stressed that censorship of the Internet is wrong. "Whose responsibility is a bad post? If there's a defamatory story in the newspaper, you go after the newspaper not the delivery man. The challenge arises on the internet where you don't know where the site has come from so you go to Google or Facebook to take them down. They too are like the delivery man."

First Published: Jan 22, 2012 19:46 IST