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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kejriwal as the political troll

By Swapan Dasgupta


Arun Jaitley once recounted to me the story of a voluble Jana Sangh worker named (or so I recollect) Lalchand. An entertaining warm-up speaker at political rallies, Lalchand may even have contested the odd municipal poll where parties opposing the Congress had to literally scrape the bottom of the barrel for candidates. Anyway, the hallmark of Lalchand's spirited interventions were the rhetorical questions he posed to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. "Jawaharlal", he would declaim, "answer  this question of Lalchand." 


Predictably, Jawaharlal never deigned to respond to Lalchand's insolence. No one even expected him to. But the puerile eloquence of Lalchand became part of the saffron folklore--a story fondly narrated when looking back at the decades of lost deposits. 


In today's 'connected' world, the contemporary Lalchand would probably have found refuge in the company of those who have come to be described as "trolls" on the world's most lively 140-character leveller, Twitter. At the risk of doing the reputation of a well-meaning political worker a disservice, I would locate the contemporary Lalchand as the person who harasses a public figure with abusive comments. The crowning glory for a troll is when a celebrity either responds to the abuse or insolence, or better still, blocks the troll. A response gets the troll a huge exposure and, in the process, some extra followers. Alternatively, he gloats over having been turfed out of the mind space of a person with a large public exposure. This week, for example, I received a twitter message from a troll daring me to block him. He proudly proclaimed that he had been blocked from some 150 twitter accounts.  


My own experience of the social media suggests that there are different types of trolls. Most are highly belief-driven individuals who are hamstrung by their limited vocabularies and inarticulation. But there are others with respectable (but humdrum) jobs who become monsters on social media--an interesting research topic for social psychologists. What unites these different types of individuals committed to making an absolute nuisance of themselves is the distaste for being ignored. They revel in being demonised, spat upon and abused. They just can't countenance being declared 'non-persons'. 


To me, the Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal is both a bore and a troll. He is a bore because he and some of his less-foul-mouthed Lok Sabha candidates are annoyingly sanctimonious. They began their political innings boldly asserting that all those who were not with them are corrupt--a crude message that his more intellectual followers attempted to nuance. Then they went on to suggest that all those who posed uncomfortable questions to them were in the payroll of Narendra Modi. And, finally, as their orchestral crescendo, Kejriwal (as reported in Indian Express) proclaimed to a gathering in Nagpur: "The whole media is sold out this time, it is a big conspiracy, it is a huge political conspiracy. If our government comes to power, we will set up an inquiry into this. And along with the media people, all will be sent to jail." 


Since this is a free country and remains so until the time the army of the virtuous sweeps the elections and form a government, we cannot fault Kejriwal for believing in a grand media conspiracy to keep India in the throes of venality and corruption. After all, every second troll on twitter has his/ her own pet conspiracy theory. Nor is it appropriate to ask what would have been society's response if, say, Modi had threatened his detractors with imprisonment on assuming power. To use the analogy from an earlier age, Jawaharlal wasn't expected to mirror the rhetorical grandstanding of a Lalchand. The fringe player is invariably allowed greater license than a serious prime ministerial aspirant, even if the former does occasionally ride a private aircraft for a short hop from Ahmedabad to Delhi. 


Make no mistake, Kejriwal loves it when a Rajat Sharma and an Arnab Goswami devotes an hour on prime time debunking his fanciful comments in Nagpur. As a leader of an organisation that is in a tearing hurry to get places but has no worthwhile organisational support system to bolster his electoral ambitions, Kejriwal believes that all media exposure is worthwhile. Ever since he was catapulted to the seat of local government in Delhi, albeit for a short span of 49 days, Kejriwal has perfected the troll methodology: using notoriety as a force multiplier. Whether it is harassing Africans in a Delhi colony, threatening to disrupt Republic Day, engineering an attack on the BJP central office, causing traffic disruption in Mumbai and threatening the media, Kejriwal has been driven by a single-minded desire to remain in the public imagination. 


It is a clever strategy and symptomatic of the asymmetric warfare perfected by the 'non-state actors' in another sphere of disruption. 


What Kejriwal seeks above all is a response from those who are at the receiving end of his poisonous attacks. And here too he has been successful. Even Reliance Industries was egged on to rebut his charges. Now, he is going for broke and demanding that Modi respond to his fanciful accusations. 


Modi knows the social media well. He should know that there is only one effective strategy to counter trolls: give them the royal ignore. Modi has so far not responded to the spit-and-run tactics of AAP. He should not do so in the future. As the old Arab saying goes: "Dogs bark, the caravan moves on." 

 

   Sunday Pioneer, March 16, 2014

32 comments:

Aam Aadmi said...

I think AAP 'trolls' should not take this seriously. Instead, they can just "move on".

Observer said...

Is this not a reminder of CPI (undivided) and later on of CPI(M), as we witnessed while growing up in the streets of Calcutta and especially of Jyoti babu shouting from the podium in Maidan? Even I remember him declaring "...we will pass steam roller on the chest of Durgapur..." at a public meeting in Durgapur, when as a fresh engineering graduate I was struggling to find a job; got one with Indian Oxygen, campus selected by G N Tagore (GM of the company and father of Sarmila Tagore), yet entire industrial belt of Calcutta including the company was completely shut down having a peace of the graveyard; and the same scoundrel was raised to the chair of the CM in Writers' Building for three decades!

musafir said...

It is astonishing that so many otherwise intelligent people are seeing a messiah in kejriwal!

Observer said...

No corrupt shall be spared/
Yelled the AAP tailblazer Kejriwal/
Menacingly wielding his AK13 aka broom/
Every one of them shall join us/
That will bring in India today/
The end of corruption.

Observer said...

Politics has its own share of wins and losses/
Oddly yet turning an atheist in Kejriwal into/
A neo-believer in God; with his new-found/
AK13 of a broom sweeping away all the sins/
In quest of a utopia he suckles in his dreams/
Back to an atheist again, if not, as a victim.

Harsh said...

On balance, Kejriwal is a positive force in political discourse. He can never convert AAP in a proper political organisation and his solutions are not through but his audacity is refreshing in our political culture. First time many of us not affiliated with political parties get a feeling of being heard. System of volunteers rather professional karyakartas where people can join political activity temporarily can bring more participation from wider section of society. People first making name in other walks of life and then entering politics can only improve quality of competence in politics. If AAP can help in this change, we should welcome it. Politics as a close shop union creates imbalance and resentment.

Anonymous said...

The 2nd commentator, Observer, has mentioned GN Tagore (father of Sharmila Tagore).
I wonder how Mr Tagore felt when his daughter discarded his religion & embraced Islam, got herself renamed as Ayesha Sultana, gave Arabic instead of Indian names to all her children & grandchildren, taught them Urdu but not Bengali etc. Even her son's marriage reception in October 2012 had a Mughal theme rather than a Tagorean one.

Amit Subodh said...

I support AAP and with the fact that they are actually doing something, may be making some mistakes, but they are doing something. They may be foolish to be not realistic while speaking, but they are honest and they are determined to bring JanLokapal, I know many of you have lost faith in him, all because how a common man can go ahead with all this.

rakesh dholakia said...

Kejriwal: Even utter nuisance has its value. The Kejriwal saga will keep the new dispensation alert and mindful of people's concerns. While I hate the man's guts, I believe his continuous presence in the political scene of Delhi will be a boon for the common man as neither the central or state govt's will be able to take people's aspirations for granted like in the days of Sonia/LKA/Sushma fixed matches.

Anonymous said...

Mr Swapandas gupta....
Please keep barking .. We are going to ignore you royally...
If you have a minute piece of courage to publish my comment, then do it man. I will clap for you.

Anonymous said...

Sir,

Please please think of your country rather than going towards money and fame.

Thinks of India First rather than any political party.May be this would be the only chance we could get to fight for our right.

Rather than praising or making humiliating remarks,think once what you have done for your country.

Wake Up,Get Up and choose the right path.

Hope you will get what is right.

GET WELL SOON..!!!

Subodh said...

"Most are highly belief-driven individuals who are hamstrung by their limited vocabularies and inarticulation. But there are others with respectable (but humdrum) jobs who become monsters on social media--an interesting research topic for social psychologists. What unites these different types of individuals committed to making an absolute nuisance of themselves is the distaste for being ignored. They revel in being demonised, spat upon and abused. They just can't countenance being declared 'non-persons'. "

This is so accurate of not just Kejriwal, but most BJP trolls on the internet. Like Kejriwal, they are obnoxious, foul-mouthed, prone to believe in grand conspiracies and accuse everyone against BJP of being on payroll of congress.

The irony is they don't realize that Kejriwal, the guy they loathe so much, is only imitating them.

Anonymous said...

I am apalled by Mr. Dasgupta!s analogy of dog with Mr. Kejriwal. It is because of these so-called intellectuals like him a most communal person has being forced upon this country. All other big leaders of BJP are equally responsible by keeping silent on the shameless use of corrupt and communal candidates. I am aghast to imagine what will happen to the country in case this imposter becomes the PM. There will be many more ghettos all over India than are present in Gujrat today. There will be many more encounters all over India.

Anonymous said...

So full of venom, vitriol and hatred. Seething with anger and frustration against Kejriwal for his having called a spade a spade. Classic outpouring of the frustration of the Hindu right wing at having been challenged.

Narayan said...

Modi has an example also to follow in this regard.. Someone named Sheila had ignored "royally" too !!

Anonymous said...

Ha ha... so you are takin swapan's advice rather than your leader Kejriwal's.

Sambit said...

swapan da is such a kid

Narendra said...

Kejriwal a leader? Is not a joke of the year.
Jokers can be entertainers and laugh and forget them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, kejriwal is nautanki with a bunch of hooligans and power seekers. Every word of Swapan da is true and advice to Modi to ignore Kejri is very appropriate. No doubt,Kejri has cheated people with dreams and lies. He is real danger to democracy with his fascist mind, duplicity and petty cunningness to cheat not the public alone but his followers. But he cannot fool all people all the time.

raviranjantalking.blogspot.com said...

Kejriwal should not get more than he deserves as we may lose a good entertainer who is now becoming boring.

raviranjantalking.blogspot.com said...

Kejriwal is getting more than he deserves.If things go like this we may lose an entertainer as he is becoming boring.

Unknown said...

EXCELLENT ANALYSIS...AK420 AND AAP ARE BOTH TROLLS

Anonymous said...

I would disagree. He is not just a troll. He is a controlled tool and his actions are very dangerous. He is fully funded and supported by a number of foreign powers to bring in a "color revolution" (i.e. destroy and dismember the country for their benefit)
You can see this game from the eyes of an independent observer who is concerned by support by Pakistan for his gang http://www.afghanistantimes.af/opinion_details.php?oid=60 . The overall scheme of things, funded by Marxists and now by foundations is given neatly by this video http://t.co/hdCi4YbtDR

Madapur said...

AAP has become a barking dog. As rightly pointed by you and one of the distinguished candidate Nandan Nilakeni they keep shouting and when they were supposed to solve ran away from responsibility!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Swapan Dasgupta
To add to your insightful psychoanalysis(as always), one may say that Kejriwal and his AAP platoon are enjoying watching themselves on the idiot boxes.

Anonymous said...

Clearly the blog is sponsored by BJP. Notice the ad on top left? Such a biased analysis...

Anonymous said...

I belelive the story of Lalchand is an imaginary. But the story of Lalachand actually makes a resonance to one Mr. Kartar Singh Thatte a Brahmin from Maharashtra who embraced Sikkhism. He used to fight election against Jawaharlal Nehru. Today nobody knows him. I had opportunity to meet this gentleman.

Raj Kumar Pandit said...

this is good one - Harsha-"Politics as a close shop union creates imbalance and resentment."
Even after being termed as troll, I want to bring to notice to all celebrities that unless you got followers you can't become celebrity, right? So you like to have your tweets replied by many, right? But don't like to be replied countering your views. Then how you are different than Arvind Kejriwal. He doesn't like criticism , so as you. (Though I don't support abusive ones, healthy trolling is good). When journalists troll minister or celebrity with all those nonsensical question nobody terms them troll. huh..

Prasanna said...

Sir,

Very apt description of Crazywal's approach to politics. The last line will get every aapturd to enjoy some Burnol Time.

Every passing day, this self-declared Mr.Honest is making a more funny ass out of himself. From fake documents and photos, to threatening the media, to blocking people posting non-favorable (but non-offensive) comments on twitter, this guy is showing all characteristics of a typical Indian politician. And the bunch of jokers around him are more ridiculous than him.

Prasanna

Anonymous said...

Well, u cannot come on his blog uninvited and claim to ignore him. If u ignored him, u wudnt be here.

Anonymous said...

I am aghast that despite Delhi fiasco, people still take Kejriwal seriously !1 He has ruined Anna Hazare's credibility along with AAP which initially appeared to be a honest and a refreshing change in the Indian polity !! Can there be any better description of the character than what Swapan Da has described !!

duke said...

I used to follow Swapan Da since school when he was at India Today, liked him as an articulate bold voice with great vocabulary. realised some analysis which sounded insightful and radical bravado to a 17 year old studying in a RSS school now sounds like stereotyping. which it is.. BJP aint a national party still and 272 seems a stretch and AAP is an unknown quantity..So thats why Swapan is dismissing kejriwal as an insignificant troll and also writing a whole article about him..Sheela Dixit did a mistake they dont want to repeat.. Did Jawahar Nehru replied to lalnath, Was there a Niti central in 60s dedicating man hours to counter Lalnath's queries.. AK is foolish, will lose elections, I support BJP but such analysis is really propaganda and nothing else..