One of the major contributors in the BJP’s emphatic victory in 2014 general election was the clever exploitation of the social media. The BJP was clearly ahead of its opponents in building public opinion in favour of its poll mascot Narendra Modi. The momentum on the social media continued even after the BJP government was formed three years ago. The digital army of the ruling party’s backroom operators ensured that negatives are erased quickly and the opponents are destroyed, discredited and disarmed.
But in the last few weeks, the table seems to be turning on the ruling party. There has been a sudden flood of anti-government messaging on the social media to the scale never witnessed before. While in the past, any negative comment against the ruling dispensation invited angry rebuttals, one finds only feeble defence of the government policies now. And this when the BJP has won almost every single election after it came to power at the Centre in 2014, signalling tightening of its hold on the country’s polity. A multiple factors have opened flood gates of criticism of the ruling party. The jokes, which appeared a week earlier are now sticking. The Congress seems to have finally set its house in order and ensures that at least one issue against the government trends on the social networks. It was helped by the slump in economy because of demonetisation and the hasty roll out of Goods and Services Tax. The rising petrol prices and expensive projects like the launch of bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad created a room for criticisms against the government.
The growing unrest on the ground, not captured by the mainstream media, is gaining ground on the social networks. It could be a warning sign for the government, as for the first time Modi, whose popularity is still beyond doubt, has been trolled heavily for his speeches. The student body elections may not provide the correct picture about the mood of the people, but they are surely a harbinger of things to come. The scenario does not look too good for the BJP unless it brings economy back on track. The marginal sections are clearly disenchanted with the slow down, giving indications that the government might be peaking way ahead of the finishing mark of 2019 when it will seek re-election.