Nothing better to do, Dr. Mitra?
As a not so sagacious but sole option left with Ms.Indira Gandhi, she announced democratic elections to be held on January 18, 1977. Morarji Desai who did not yield an inch to the tyranny of Mrs.Gandhi and spent his time in prison contemplating on Bhagavat gita , was finally released. In his first ever press conference after release he was questioned by a journalist, not so differently from today. He was asked about Mrs.Gandhi’s allegation that most leaders were enjoying trips abroad instead and not languishing in jail for a lost democracy. The questioner specifically referred to Dr.Subramanian Swamy who made a heroic escape from the parliament to the US and garnered support in the international media against the emergency. Morarji, who is usually well-informed, faltered by quipping angrily that Dr.Swamy was not a front rank leader.
Dr.Swamy retorted to this on Feb 5th 1977, in his own characteristic style, “Morarjibhai is right. I cannot be front rank leader because I am not 80 years old”. The embarrassment and distraction this statement caused to the whole movement compelled Morarji Desai to privately apologize to Dr.Swamy for not taking into account the sacrifices and efforts that leaders like Dr.Swamy made in participating in a different but equally valuable protest. As a further testament to this effort, Dr.Swamy was rightfully presented with the emergency hero award in September 2015 by the present government.
History has always shown that supporters of various political ideologies adapt to innovative and effective platforms much faster than the political leaders themselves. May it be simple ego or Newton’s first law, the reluctant latecomers fail to understand the dynamics of changing mechanisms of supporters’ feedback. In this context, I would like to look at Dr.Chandan Mitra’s comments in a program on NDTV about Indo-Pak talks as a response to Barkha Dutt. When questioned on the effect of social media on the government’s stand or flip-flop (as Barkha would choose to call it), Dr.Mitra sidelined it as a mere conjecture and went far ahead to say “ I don’t think any government can frame foreign policy or any other for that matter on the basis of twitterati which is hyperbolic at times …. It is a useful sounding board for some people with nothing very much better to do”. If it was his personal opinion, he deserves just a “swamy”ish retort and can be ignored as he is mostly (by me, atleast) on tv debates (Thank god for “mute” buttons!). Since he categorically stated this as the BJP’s opinion, the Ashoka Chakra on my passport necessitates few questions and comments.
If the impact of social media on any policy is not considered, should citizens be voicing their concerns and opinions in mygov.in? The website shows 164800 submissions in 377 tasks by 40 different groups. Does the BJP consider these discussions as outcome of “nothing better to do” frivolousness or just a joomla for creating an image of listening to supporter feedback? Can we believe that these decisions will not actually impact public policy and will remain as essay writing contests? Can the BJP also please let the social media cell know that they are heading a cell that is not of any important consequence? The BJP should also remind the Prime minister that #selfiewithdaughter will lead to no social change and he has “better things to do”. When the HRD minister in a recent interview pointed out the support she received in her Amethi campaign, was she talking about people who have nothing better to do?
As an avid follower of twitter without being on twitter, I follow many RW writers on history, foreign policy ,politics, Swach Bharat activists who outclass the Op-eds or news articles in the mainstream media by a huge margin. These propagators of ideas have challenged the age-old theories and misconceptions with their limited bandwidth of time and resources. These are people who have families to cater to and their own illustrious careers to pursue but want to challenge the lies that are spread by mainstream media. They have honestly taken up the responsibilities of BJP spokespersons in the cyber world that their real world counterparts have failed in. None of these have demanded any benefits or privileges and have stood for the PM’s vision through rain and shine .They could definitely do without the “tyranny of the unelected” in representing the opinions of people they actually care about
A “nothing better to do “ PhD candidate in Bioengineering, University of Maryland, USA