There is a reason why history always remembers the ‘Firsts’. Ask anybody who the second man to set foot on the moon was and you’re likely to draw a blank. But everybody knows Neil Armstrong. Ask anyone which the second team on Mt. Everest was, not easy. But most would know Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Second Prime Minister of India? Chances are most would not remember Gulzarilal Nanda but would know the first was Jawaharlal Nehru. It is in that context that Narendra Modi achieved history in Indian politics with a first. He became the first top rung political leader to interact LIVE on social media directly with citizens and answered questions on a variety of issues. It is a historic first because it signals the crucial role Internet and social media (SM) are likely to play in politics, electioneering, propaganda and a platform for citizens to reach their leaders directly. The middlemen in the mainstream media (MSM), the spin doctors, the brokers, the opinion-swinging editorialists will increasingly become irrelevant. It is the equivalent of a P&G getting rid of wholesalers and distributors and directly reaching the customer through retail shelves and online shopping. (Watch the event on Youtube)
According to reports over 4 million from across India and abroad watched the show. Narendra Modi’s audience had a good time. Even the Modi-haters from the media and politics who may have watched will agree that social media is here as a powerful medium and despising it can only be at a severe cost. #ModiHangout trended all day on August 31 on Twitter, even well into September 1 long after the show was over. What Modi said or did not say will be in print and online media although TV channels may skip the news. And why is it news? This is the first time ever in India that a top political leader has harnessed social media to directly interact with citizens. This was not one of those private durbars that we know our netas to hold. This wasn’t one of those off-camera meetings that Rahul Gandhi holds with college students.The unsaid message from Modi to MSM was like some property ads: "Brokers Excuse".
Everything Narendra Modi said in the Google+ Hangout, hosted by actor Ajay Devgn, was positive and contained a good number of encouraging messages. The MSM will now get busy poking holes into the show over what he did not say. I had joked in a tweet about the likely headlines on TV and in newspapers:"Modi reaches out but fails to apologise". Some didn’t wait, Headlines Today held a discussion even before the Youtubecast and of all possible morons in the world we had Vinod ‘Smirk’ Sharma, Congress batter and editor of Hindustan Trolls, complaining that Modi didn’t take “Live” questions. Talk about 'Pre-Judging'! If Modi were to land on the moon this same Smirk would probably say “But Oh, it wasn’t a full-moon day, he could have chosen a better date”. The crime of ‘pre-judging’ an event or adversaries is a crime that is bound to invite a price. It is all the more ironic that the Smirk criticises Modi when his own Gods like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi neither have the skill nor the courage to even speak to their own cronies in the MSM, let alone directly with citizens other than choreographed rallies and written speeches.There can hardly be any doubt that the Modi Hangout must have dented prime time TV viewership.
On Twitter Rajdeep Sardesai was expectedly leading the band of MSM cronies of Congress in snide remarks about the Hangout. Firstpost has summarised Modi’s answers and statements during the Hangout with timelines and garnished it with some fair cheeky comments. To me the most notable comments were about Secularism and American visas. If the trend of SM Live-interaction continues then it’s not long before the fake secularism practiced by the Congress and minority-appeasing parties and propagated by MSM will be thoroughly exposed in the farthest corners of India. Such a criminal comment representing fake secularism and condoning intended terrorism by ‘The Hindu’ newspaper, was indeed exposed by the Twitterati.
The MSM has been receiving warnings frequently to embrace social media and learn to interact and deal with it more sensibly and productively. So far they have they have treated it as a passing fad. SM is not a fad; it’s a trend with an undeniable permanence and growth potential. Take a look at the text in the box. It’s a ‘clarification’ from the predominantly anti-Hindu newspaper called ‘The Hindu’. It first suggested that a terrorist threat to writers was justified because of their “anti-minority” views (Read Here). By the evening of the same day, August 31, it’s rabid editor, S.Varadarajan known for his communist leanings, withdrew the foolish note in the article. Why? Simply because he was pointed out the truth by those on Twitter of his justifying terrorism. Such an apology would not have come without an active social media.
Whatever else may happen in future elections or in politics Narendra Modi has certainly set a new road map for social communication and direct interaction and political campaigning with citizens. That Modi has stayed the course, developed his state and is now being projected a future PM is remarkable because of the number of political and media adversaries he has. Adversaries even from his own party! If the MSM blacked him out (and demonised him when they did not) he found the one truthful place for communication: Social Media. The Barkhas, Rajdeeps, Smirks, Shekhars, Prannoys would be wise to read the writing on the SM wall. Brokers in media will definitely lose more ground to social media. Their loss will not be mourned by anyone.