Are you a ‘pappu’ for propaganda doctors?

An army of 2,000 people is disseminating propaganda for Narendra Modi and against his rivals

On the Internet, Rahul Gandhi is known as Pappu. The name is meant to suggest a simpleton who is out of his depth, but who coined it? The first auto-complete suggestion on YouTube when you type his name is “Rahul Gandhi dumb".

The Rahul Gandhi video with the highest rating (1.3 million views, uploaded by “IndianVictim") claims he is a rapist. Twice as many people “like" this video as they “dislike" it. The second, uploaded by “Panchajanya1947" is “Shocking state of Rahul Gandhis general knowledge". This has over 830,000 views with over 3,000 likes and over 300 dislikes.

The third, uploaded by saffronworrior (“Can Manmohan & Rahul repeat these words??"), claims he’s soft on Pakistan and has over 6,000 likes and 73 dislikes.

The fourth claims he has made anti-Gujarat remarks and has 1,700 likes and 53 dislikes.

The video “Is Rahul Gandhi DUMB? Proof" has over 1,300 likes and over 100 dislikes.

Narendra Modi’s nickname in The Times of India’s Gujarat edition (coined by my friend and former colleague, the journalist Ajay Umat) is Feku. This means someone who casually exaggerates, corresponding to the Hindi “Phenku". It came after Modi made claims, such as on Vibrant Gujarat, which turned out to be bogus.

The most viewed Modi video (“Modi’s joke on Manmohan—Killer") uploaded by “vishnu99s" has over 5,000 likes and 980 dislikes.

Modi’s official channel on YouTube has the second most viewed video, a recording of his Google Plus Hangouts chat (over 7,000 likes and almost 500 dislikes).

Modi’s comment on the riots in Gujarat (“What an amazing answer by Narendra Modi for a very-2 provoking question… hats off") uploaded by “maskedkane741" has over 1,400 likes and almost 130 dislikes. On the other hand “Arrogant Modi cornered by Rajdeep Sardesai on Godhra and Bihar! Full video! MUST SEE!" uploaded by Modi Feku has 852 dislikes and 111 likes.

I have tried and failed to find a video in which, no matter what he says, Rahul Gandhi is approved of by the users of the Internet. Even when he says something that the public are likely to approve, for instance attacking the ordinance protecting convicted politicians as “complete nonsense", twice as many people disapprove of his saying it.

Similarly, I have not found a video with over 100,000 views where what Modi says is disliked more than liked, and that by a large multiple.

What’s going on? How are the leaders of India’s largest and most popular political party so hated on the Internet? What explains such unanimous love for the chief minister of Gujarat?

On 10 June, The Indian Express filed a report (“The men behind Narendra Modi"), in which five people were listed as being close to Modi and in charge of executing his 2014 campaign. Along with hatchet man Amit Shah, senior minister Anandiben Patel, an RSS man, and Modi’s principal secretary, is a man called Hiren Joshi.

What is his job? The paper says he heads a team of more than 2,000 volunteers that manages Modi’s portal and social media. 2,000 people!

An April report in Times Crest said Joshi’s team “also has senior executives from companies like PricewaterhouseCooper and Deloitte who quit their corporate jobs to join Modi’s team. He is also supported by an army of tech-savvy fans, some of whom live abroad".

In an interview in The Economic Times, Rajeeka Kacheeria, who heads the BJP’s IT cell and manages its website, said: “Everything that happens on the Internet and social media is done under the guidance of Mr Narendra Modi. Hiren Joshi, a senior party professional clears even the smallest of our doubts on anything related to the Net. It is not possible that conversations can happen as per the whim and fancy of a single individual. It’s a collective effort."

Indeed. It is not easy, and I would suggest it is not possible, today in India to put forth a view in the public space that is critical of Modi and not be shouted down.

The opposite is true for the Congress and especially Rahul and Sonia Gandhi.

The Congress is dynastic and arrogant. That is true. Their chamchas (sycophants) in the party act with a sense of great entitlement. It is difficult to say that the party doesn’t deserve the treatment it is getting in the social media.

But we must recognize that we are being played. An army of 2,000 people is disseminating propaganda for Modi and against his rivals.

If Indians cannot see through this, then we are the real Pappus.

Also Read | Aakar Patel’s previous Lounge columns

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