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Ten for one: How Mamata Banerjee wants Trinamool to rebut BJP ‘falsehoods’

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, in her speech on the foundation day of Trinamool Chhatra Parishad, said “never believe what the BJP says on Facebook and Twitter, they are constantly trying to spread lies.”

india Updated: Aug 28, 2018 19:17 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Kolkata, Hindustan Times
Mamata Banerjee,Trinamool’s student members,Cyber war
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during the foundation day programme of party's student wing Trinamool Chhatra Parishad at Mayo road crossing in Kolkata, on Tuesday. (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee turned her address at the foundation day of her Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s student wing into a full-fledged political speech on Tuesday, urging activists to respond “vigorously” on social media to members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led dispensation at the Centre .

“Are you on Facebook and Twitter? Wield the cyber tools. If there is one jibe, respond so vigorously that they run away,” she said at a public rally of more than 100,000 students in Kolkata.

“Never believe what BJP says on Facebook and Twitter. They are constantly trying to spread lies. Reply to every single falsehood propagated by them with at least 10 fitting retorts,” said the chief minister.

Banerjee’s comments come at a time the TMC and other opposition parties are bracing for Lok Sabha elections in 2019 in which social media is expected to be an important campaign platform. In preparation for the elections, the TMC has revamped its cyber unit to take on the BJP, which has been seeking to make inroads into West Bengal. On June 20, TMC kicked off a series of workshops for 200 master cyber trainers who went back to their respective areas o select volunteers and coach them.

The party announced the formation of a 40,000-strong digital unit headed by Trinamool Lok Sabha MP and the chief minister’s nephew, Abhishek Banerjee

“The ruling party of Bengal is a symbol of falsehood and corruption. The chief minister had to say it (what she did) to inspire her followers,” BJP Bengal unit general secretary Sayantan Basu said about Banerjee’s words of encouragement to TMC’s student-activists to take on his party on social media networks .

The aim of creating the party’s own digital army was to take on the might of the IT cell of BJP. Mamata has frequently alleged that the BJP’s IT cell is constantly spreading communal hatred in and misinformation in Bengal.

“Social media is going to play a very big role in the 2019 elections because opposition parties have realized a while ago how well it was executed by the BJP in 2014. They see it as one of the most influential platforms to reach youngsters which then gets amplified by print and tv media,” said B.G. Mahesh, founder of Oneindia.com, which provides content in regional languages. “However, the intelligent end voter will ignore the noise. The biggest challenge that political parties are going to face is the false narrative on social media.”

Banerjee also dared the ruling dispensation at the Centre to carry out a citizenship screening exercise in Bengal like it did in Assam, where four million applicants were excluded from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens .

“Let them try to conduct a similar exercise here. They will be finished before that. Tigers are waiting in Bengal to pounce on them,” said the chief minister, who also alleged that the Centre was employing central agencies to harass opposition leaders.

Speaking before her, Abhishek Banerjee took a dig at BJP president Amit Shah’s target of winning at least 22 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal and asked him to prove the party’s support by marshalling people to oversee 22 election booths in the state.

Tuesday’s meeting was organised in Mayo Road, the same place where Amit Shah held a rally on August 11.

(With inputs from Vidhi Choudhary)

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 17:59 IST