Suave, polished and  soft spoken, Shashi Tharoor was among the first in Indian politicians to hitch the bandwagon of  Twitter in Year 2009. At that time many from opposition parties and within his own political circles had scoffed at the idea of connecting with the masses in 140 characters, that too online. His personalized  & engaging tweets from films, sports, social issues and politics, got popular and now he is one of the darling politician on twitter.Now, every politician wants to get ‘followed’ on virtual world. Tharoor official webpage introduces him as an  “Author, United Nations peace-keeper, refugee worker, human rights activist, Minister of State for Human Resources Development, an elected member of the Indian Parliament from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala and a former Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr. Shashi Tharoor straddles several worlds of experience.”

Social Media Foot Prints
Social Media Foot Prints

Tharoor Current Social Media Reach  

Mr Tharoor  has confined his social media outreach to Twitter only. Mr Tharoor  boasts of 18 lakh Twitter followers in his kitty.  Recently, he has been anointed as one of the leader to counter the  propaganda against the Congress party on social media sites, especially on Twitter. He is known vocal critic of Narendra Modi and his policies on social media platforms.

His  official personal website has only twitter links displayed prominently.  However, Tharoor has no official presence on Facebook which has over 76 million users in India  and also not on You Tube , the world’s largest online video-sharing platform, has more than a billion unique users every single month.

The “Cattle Class Tweet” which cost Tharoor his Ministerial Post.

Tharoor journey with twitter has been roller coaster ride. No one can forget including Mr. Tharoor the “cattle class” tweet  which created an uproar inside the parliament and outside of it. Mr Tharoor had

tweeted “Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows” while travelling in an economy class of an airline.

The said tweet generated so much heat that for Congress led UPA government amid  huge protests within the party and from opposition members  that Mr. Tharoor had to resign from the post of Minister of External Affairs.  He maintains that the tweet was ‘misinterpreted’.

Tharoor Views on Social Media Role in Politics

Tharoor in his recent media interaction with The Open Magazine said , ” First, though only about 10-12 per cent of the Indian electorate is on the internet, the fact remains that it’s not just the people who [you are] directly reaching through social media that you are reaching. What you put out on social media may be directly interacting with 10-12 per cent. But it is mined by media, gets out by newspaper or television.”

“The second reason it is important is… There’s a study by a group called Iris Media which has established that in 160 of our country’s 543 constituencies, there are more social media users than the gap [in votes] between the [candidates who came] first and second and the last election—the margin of victory is smaller than the number of social media users in that constituency. So in 160 constituencies, it is a politically relevant number. other constituency we won by 10,000 votes, there are more than 10,000 social media users. So that becomes a very important factor.

In his another interview to  IANS in August, 2013. Tharoor said, “Social media shouldn’t be ignored. There are 10-12 percent of people who are using Internet. 70 percent of the Indian citizens have mobile phones in their hand. When there will be a convergence of the two, when 4G will replace 3G, then people will not have trouble to go on the net and it won’t be so expensive also.

And Congress’s best bet to tackle #NaMO brigade on social media would be none other than Tharoor himself. It would be interesting to watch political twitter wars ahead.

-By Kumar Manish

Inputs- The Open Magazine & IANS