Amid all the noise during the recent Bihar assembly election, one person, a candidate of Rashtriya Janata Dal, stole the limelight on social media. But guess what? He does not even have an account on social media.
And yet, Anant Singh, the MLA-elect from Mokama constituency, has been all over Twitter and Facebook these past few months — with memes and comedy clips celebrating his media bytes coming out in hordes. In no time, Singh became an internet sensation — a Yuva Hriday Samrat or the King of Meme Lovers.
Although ‘Bahubali’ Anant Singh has long been a popular figure in Mokama — he is known as ‘Chhote Sakar’ — it was an irreverent remark on the Nitish Kumar government he made before local reporters in Patna last November that really turned things around for him. Not only did it find its way into the meme world just in time for the 2020 Bihar assembly election, it also turned Singh into a social media frenzy of sorts for a crowd that is always on the lookout for such material.
Perhaps that’s why his supporters were assured of his victory in the election. On 10 November, people in his constituency were uploading pictures from the feast organised by his followers to celebrate his win even as the counting was still on. Not surprisingly, he defeated his rival candidate, Janata Dal (united)’s Rajeev Lochan Narayan Singh, by a margin of more than 35,000 votes.
This was despite the fact that Anant Singh fought the election from jail, where he is lodged in a UAPA case for alleged possession of an AK-47 rifle, or the fact that he is accused of seven murders. He first contested the election in 2005 as a JD(U) candidate but later parted ways with Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar owing to political differences. He fought and won the 2015 Bihar election as an Independent. In 2020, he joined the RJD.
No more a Bahubali
It’s not unusual for ‘dabang netas’ to enjoy a large fan base. Politicians with criminal cases are dreaded and revered in equal measure. But it’s rare for a politician like Anant Singh to capture the interest of social media users — without any presence online.
It seems he is no more the dreaded Bahubali of Mokama but someone whose interviews and media interactions are supposed to be analysed for the sole purpose of making memes, which the millennials and Gen Z adore. Anant Singh checks all the boxes in his off-the-cuff response — whether it is about the cases against him, his supporters, his politics, or just about anything. He could easily be a character from a web series like Mirzapur or a gritty crime drama that has a villain just for comic relief.
His old interviews now do rounds on the internet. Clips of him giving ‘gyaan’ (advice) are widely shared. In one such video, he tells the interviewer he doesn’t believe in exit polls, and rattles on about how TV news is all about ‘money’, saying people who watch TV are ‘mad’.
There is a certain laid-back attitude to Anant Singh, in his well-cultivated response that contains a mix of innocence and biting sarcasm. When asked by a reporter if his style is natural or practiced, he said that he underwent training in a foreign university.
There is no knowing what Anant Singh might respond with. On why he wants to be an MP, Anant Singh replies it’s because he likes to travel by airplanes. He seems someone assured of his popularity, his winning chances and is never in doubt about anything.
A made-for-social media star
Anant Singh is Lalu Prasad Yadav for the meme generation. Perhaps he is aware of it too. He knows how to mesmerise his audience, and seems always ready to hold court for people looking for his acerbic, quick-witted takes — just like his party president, who is known for his relaxed, informal responses. But Anant Singh’s popularity in the internet era means he might just end up having a longer laugh. He complements the culture of memes and snappy ‘Thug Life’ clips, which have a whole world of takers, irrespective of their political allegiance.
This trend goes with almost any other popular political leader. The biggest social media star in Indian politics, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a hit also among his detractors largely because of his speeches and his one-liners, the most popular being ‘Waah Modiji Waah’. Congress’ Rahul Gandhi too helps generate memes, but unlike Anant Singh, they have done the opposite of helping his image and his politics.
Anant Singh also works for a section of youth that no longer shows patience or appetite for the diplomatic language or the tired, progressive hogwash that some Leftists and liberals seem to keep pushing as the template for political speak.
The RJD leader once told a reporter he is not on social media because he “doesn’t understand it”, perhaps suggesting he is not tech savvy to operate Twitter or Facebook. Well, it’s nothing but a loss for his followers. Anant Singh is tailor-made for the social media crowd. He is already a star. All he needs is an account to tap into it.
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