Photo: Mint (Mint)
Photo: Mint
(Mint)

Congress deploys Sashi Tharoor as tweeter-in-chief to take on Narendra Modi

Congress to challenge BJP’s Twitter supremacy with a special team under Tharoor

New Delhi: If Twitter traffic and sentiment expressed on the microblogging site were to translate into votes, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would win a landslide victory in 2014 and Narendra Modi, who had 1,813,428 followers at last count, would be Prime Minister.

Now, the Congress has decided to challenge the BJP’s supremacy over 140 characters, and constituted, according to a person familiar with the matter who did not want to be identified, a team led by junior human resource development minister Shashi Tharoor, a man who is no slouch when it comes to Twitter (he had, at last count, 1,818,785 followers), which includes member of Parliament and former information technology (IT) executive Deepender Hooda. Neither Tharoor nor Hooda could be reached for comment.

Indeed, the Congress’ new-found Twitter aggression was on display on Monday when information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari took on BJP leader Sushma Swaraj on Twitter after she asked for the resignation of the Uttarakhand government over its handling of the recent floods in the state.

“We won’t leave anything unanswered," said Ajay Maken, the former Union minister now tasked with improving the Congress’s image.

The Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that it heads have seen their popularity erode considerably since returning to power in 2009—an erosion caused largely by a raft of corruption scandals. Several party leaders believe the Congress has failed to communicate its achievements and counter the “campaign" against it. Rahul Gandhi, who took over as party vice-president in January, has been working on a fresh strategy aimed at improving party’s image ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Modi casts a large shadow on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, according to a survey by research firm Blogworks. In April, he received one million mentions (not all positive) compared with Gandhi’s 340,000. Modi was recently put in charge of the BJP’s election campaign and is tipped to be the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

In 2009, the Congress party was annoyed with Tharoor when, in response to a query on whether he would travel cattle class (economy class), when he visited Kerala, tweeted: “Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows."

PTI contributed to this story.

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