Ahmedabad: Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani hosted a Twitter town hall on Friday, sparking an apparently overwhelming flood of questions that evoked complaints that he wasn’t answering them.
The move was aimed at projecting Rupani as a tech-savvy politician and an attempt to address certain issues hands-on in a state that has been gripped by social unrest because of campaigns being waged by the Patidar community and Dalits.
“There were about 35,000 questions that the chief minister received for Twitter Town Hall. The chief minister took some 15-16 questions and answered them personally for about one hour in the morning at a live event. To reach out to a large Gujarati audience, Twitter (India) has collaborated with a regional television channel which will telecast the event on Friday evening. The event will be later shared on You Tube and the CM’s official Twitter handle,” said Ajay Bhadoo, secretary of the state information and broadcasting department, who is anchoring the project.
“Tweet your questions to me using #Askvijayrupani,” Rupani said in a Tweet on 15 September and soon his Twitter handle was flooded with questions.
Received lot of questions today at #Twittertownhall about fixed pay. I assure that govt will do whatever possible to address this issue.— Vijay Rupani (@vijayrupanibjp) September 23, 2016
“The chief minister spent a lot of time and effort analysing the queries, issues or subject matters raised, consulting a lot of people before addressing them,” Bhadoo said.
Questioners asked why Gujarat was not attracting information technology companies, why it was not creating enough jobs. Rupani was also asked about the 2017 Gujarat elections and Aam Aadmi Party members allegedly spreading lies about the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The chief minister’s office is aiming to address queries posed by the Twitter followers and since it is not possible for the CM to individually answer them himself, a team of experts from his office will field them, said an official close to the development who did not wish to be named. The government has asked Twitter to develop a tool by which questions would be sorted into categories and a common standard reply would be given for each category.
While the state government statement hailed the event as a huge success, Rupani was trolled and criticized on social media by some for not responding using #GujCMMissing.
The confusion seemed to have started after the BJP, using its official Twitter handle BJP@BJP4India, tweeted late on Thursday that the Twitter Town Hall event would begin at 10 am on Friday.
“There was no official time for the event. The one hour event was to be aired through television and social media later in the event. The party’s tweet created some confusion as it gave an impression that the event would be aired live through Twitter. It is not possible for the CM to answer so many questions. It is not how Twitter Town Hall works,” said an official in the CM’s office on conditions of anonymity.
Congress MLA and national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil criticized the event and said that the chief minister was using social media as he was not ready to face the people of Gujarat in person.
Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti members flooded Rupani’s handle with questions on whether the government would give their community government job and university seat quotas.
The event, which was the Rupani’s first direct interaction with people of Gujarat using social media after being sworn in as chief minister last month, followed similar events featuring US President Barrack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.