Ahead of Lok Sabha polls, BJP is worried about perception and morale, and has told all its leaders who are unwell to keep posting on Twitter & Facebook.
New Delhi: With a number of ministers and senior leaders ailing, the BJP is concerned about public perception as well as cadre morale ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Its top leadership has communicated to these leaders that they must remain active on social media, so as to ‘give a semblance of normalcy’.
Over half-a-dozen union ministers and senior leaders, including Arun Jaitley, are currently undergoing treatment in India and abroad, but in the run-up to the general elections, with so much at stake, the BJP needs all hands on deck.
“The motivation of the cadres was on a downhill slope because of concerns over the health problems of the top leadership. It was important not to let health come in the way of preparing for the elections, and to gather strength,” a senior BJP leader said.
BJP chief Amit Shah himself is leading this effort from the front. On 16 January, he put a stop to all rumours about his ill-health by tweeting that he was down with swine flu. He remained hospitalised at AIIMS, New Delhi, till 20 January, but kept retweeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s posts and also congratulated the Indian cricket team for its ODI series victory in Australia.
Since he was discharged, he has been on a whirlwind tour. Shah addressed rallies in West Bengal’s Malda and Jhargram on 22 and 23 January, and is set to shuttle between Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal over the next few days.
Leaders with long-term ailments
Another case in point is Jaitley, who is in the US for treatment and has to skip the most important annual rite of the finance ministry, the presentation of the Union Budget, which will be done by Piyush Goyal, the interim minister.
Since he went to the US, Jaitley’s Twitter account, Facebook page and blog are buzzing with activity.
“Though he’s not here in person, he is glued to whatever is happening in the country. People are his priority, as is the party,” said a senior leader said of Jaitley.
Even last year, when he was indisposed for three months and temporarily replaced by Goyal, Jaitley continued to remain active on various social media platforms, tweeting and posting his views on Facebook. He wrote many blogs on issues ranging from GST to economic growth.
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is fighting a severe ailment, has also remained active on social media, despite having largely disappeared from public view over the last few months. Now increasingly frail and sporting a nasal tube, Parrikar has begun making public appearances to inaugurate projects and attend the state assembly, to not just show his fighting capabilities but also to counter the opposition’s allegation that the state was not being governed properly while he was receiving treatment.
“The party was crumbling without him. He has taken charge again. These are the kind of leaders the BJP needs right now,” said another senior party MP.
It must be pointed out that the late Ananth Kumar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister, continued tweeting till days before his death, despite being away for treatment for several weeks.
Even those who have had to go to hospital for short-term ailments are part of this trend — be it a senior minister like Ravi Shankar Prasad or the BJP’s national general secretary (organisation), Ram Lal.
In January, Law Minister Prasad was admitted to AIIMS for a pulmonary complaint, and remained ‘under observation’ for two or three days. However, his absence from the ministry did not reflect on his Twitter account, as he kept posting about the government’s achievements every single day.
“.@digilocker_ind is an important initiative under #DigitalIndia program that allows the citizens to share and access documents in digital form,” he had tweeted on 15 January.
Ram Lal, meanwhile, was admitted to Noida’s Kailash Hospital (owned by union minister Mahesh Sharma and chaired by his wife Dr Uma) in January for ‘high fever’. But his Twitter account also remained active when he was in hospital.