How Siddaramaiah has turned Karnataka Assembly polls into an all-out Twitter war

DailyBiteMay 02, 2018 | 21:07

How Siddaramaiah has turned Karnataka Assembly polls into an all-out Twitter war

The battle for the Karnataka Assembly is being fought as much in the cities and villages of the state as on social media. While online slugfests between politicians of opposing camps are not new, what this election down south has introduced us to are point-by-point real time political crusades.


Leading this social media battle from the front is Congress leader and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah. So when Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his much-hyped and greatly anticipated campaign in Karnataka by addressing a rally in Santhemarahalli town of Chamarajanagar district, Siddaramaiah was not just listening to Modi intently but also offering a point-by-point rebuttal, pointing to the many gaps in his speech, posing questions where necessary.


When PM Modi told the gathering at Santhemarahalli, where the party hasn't done well politically, that around 3.5 crore farmers across the country had been covered under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana — of which 14 lakh farmers belong to Karnataka — Siddaramaiah was quick to point out that the state government under him had paid 50 per cent of the cost to implement the scheme.

The chief minister also jumped to the rescue of Congress national president Rahul Gandhi when Modi challenged the former to speak for 15 minutes on the achievements of the state government "without reading from a paper". He wondered if PM Modi could similarly speak about the achievements of BS Yeddyurrapa's regime. 


Tweet after tweet, Siddaramaiah took the Karnataka battle straight to prime minister Modi's doors, whom he has also referred to as a "north Indian import" in the context of Karnataka.

He also brought into focus issues that the prime minister's speech either glossed over or did not touch upon.


The chief minister, it seems, had decided to use Twitter as a weapon early on in this high-stakes battle.

In January this year, when Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath visited the state to attend BJP's Parivartan Yatra rally, which was also a clarion call to the big electoral fight, Siddaramaiah initiated an exchange of barbs on Twitter.

The tweet more or less set the tone for the political bickering that followed electioneering in the months ahead.

While the Congress is finding it hard to match the BJP in terms of the resources at its disposal to contest elections, Twitter has proved a convenient option for Siddaramaiah to reach out to a whole gamut of people.

India is one of Twitter's fastest-growing markets. Market research firms tag the user base in India between 20 and 25 million. That, by no estimate, is a small number for any political party. Also, Twitter in India is a politically charged space unlike Facebook which is more personal in nature.

Siddaramaiah, on his part, is not just using the platform to puncture holes in the Opposition's charge, but also to try to talk about the achievements of his own government.

Both the BJP and the Congress are aware of the potential Twitter holds and are invested in harnessing it as best as they can.

The BJP and the Congress' social media chiefs, Amit Malviya and Divya Spandana, are currently stationed in Bangalore. Both are trying to build a narrative in favour of their respective parties.

Though Modi has so far refrained from getting into a direct tweet war with Siddaramaiah, the two national parties backed their leaders with full force on the micro-blogging website.

While the Congress trended the hashtag Answermadimodi (Modi must answer), the BJP shot back using #NammaModi (Our man Modi) on May 1.

While politicians are increasingly waking up to the potential of Twitter, Siddaramaiah may have well shown the direction in which poll campaigning will be moving to ensure political messages are not missed out in the electoral din. This could be the closest we have come to a presidential system debate and nobody seems to mind.

Last updated: May 03, 2018 | 11:26
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