October 6, 2014

When social media helps build political bridges

Indian PM, Modi, is known for making good use of social media to achieve a range of objectives: connecting with people, responding to important matters, sending messages and greetings and so on. Shashi Tharoor, an ex-UN diplomat and ex-minister, too uses social media with great finesse. What happens when they, though in opposite political formations, send positive vibes to each other? It results in a politically mature discussion. It also results in political rumours.

Modi, in one of his rare foul-mouthed remarks, had once commented on Tharoor's glamorous wife (who later killed herself by consuming some drug) and he seems to be regretting that. So, after that remark, Modi has never publicly criticised Tharoor. 

By the way, Tharoor is a rather lower-rung Congress politician who does not deserve a mention by Modi, but his international diplomatic experiences, oratory, books on a number of social and political subjects and appeal as a noteworthy intellectual have made him larger-than life, especially on the social media.

About four months back, Tharoor had told a US news website that Modi was becoming an avatar of modernity and progress. He had to deny having praised Modi and his party had described his comments as Tharoor's personal views. That was the time of elections, and Tharoor's Congress and Modi's BJP were breathing down each other's neck.

When PM made an energetic speech at the UN last month, Tharoor tweeted 'Strong speech by @PMOIndia at #UNGA2014. Soaring internationalism, support for democracy & environment, anti-terrorism. Good reply to Pak'

Now PM Modi has chosen Tharoor as one of the nine public figures whom he has sent the broom challenge. Broom challenge is being spread on the lines of the recent Cold Bucket challenge; one takes the challenge to vow for cleaning India of filth, and passes on the challenge to nine others. Tharoor immediately tweeted that he felt honoured. He has given a detailed response to NDTV  in which he has also hit at the talks of his joining the BJP that arise whenever he praises Modi. In fact, Tharoor has been even more gracious in supporting the cause of cleaning India and praising Modi for giving it top national priority.

We don't know if Tharoor will one day join Modi. As of now that looks unlikely but newspapers are reporting that there is palpable unease in his party over their overtures to each other. What ITB is trying to highlight is that social media can be an effective tool for building political bridges.