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Triad of Kejriwal-Mamata-Nitish take on PM Modi on Twitter

Rupashree Nanda

Updated: November 6, 2015, 6:31 PM IST
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Triad of Kejriwal-Mamata-Nitish take on PM Modi on Twitter
File photo of Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi
On September 30, six chief ministers from across the country engaged in a conversation at the chief ministers' conclave on co-operative federalism on invitation by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Held at the unlikely venue for an Aam Aadmi meet, the opulent Imperial Hotel in elite Lutyen's Delhi, apart from Kejriwal, just two, Tripura CM Manik Sarkar (CPM) and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee (TMC) actually showed up for the meeting that is being read as a nascent alignment of anti-Modi forces. Chief Ministers of Bihar, Nitish Kumar (JDU), Mizoram, Lal Thanhawla (INC) and Puducherry, N Rangaswamy (All India N R Congress), sent in written notes which Kejriwal read out in the meeting. The fact that Mamata Banerjee and Manik Sarkar did not share stage is an indicator of the vulnerabilities of the fledgling formation. Politely termed as a seminar, all the six chief ministers had grievances against the Centre, again a polite euphemism for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Arvind Kejriwal, who has been fighting a political battle with Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung over exercise of power vested in him by the people of Delhi, said "In 23 years, no LG has ever termed any chief minister's order as 'null and void'; the LG has termed 30 orders of the Delhi government as null and void. If there is a conflict, the Judiciary has the power to decide, Central government is encroaching in domain of the judiciary also." Endorsing Kejriwal's stand, Mamata Banerjee said, "Delhi is our capital. Law and order is not with the Delhi government but development work should not be slowed. If someone says 'null and void' to an elected government's order, it is not good."

"The Central government is not letting the Delhi government function," wrote Nitish Kumar who found the time even in the middle of the cut and thrust of his election campaign.

Kejriwal was not the only one who targeted the Centre with allegations of interference. Mamata Banerjee said, "In our case, Governor wrote a letter to the Home Department for special forces to be deployed in municipal elections, I was shocked. I did not even know about this!"

The Chief Minister of Puducherry, N Rangaswamy, argued for appointment of Governors and Lt Governors after taking the opinion and consent of the States, while Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said, "There was no real resource augmentation and a frequent change of Governors."

Mamata Banerjee has offered to host the next meeting of Chief Ministers in West Bengal and Nitish Kumar has promised to lend his shoulder to the wheel once the all-important election in Bihar is over. The triad of leaders - Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar - is spearheading the attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding complete autonomy in their states and holding him accountable to his promise of cooperative federalism. It is significant that the three have found time to chatter on Twitter, and this is no mean chatter. In an unprecedented political move, Kejriwal and Banerjee have exhorted people of Bihar to vote for Nitish Kumar, on Twitter.

Sociologist Shiv Visvanathan explains, "In actual politics, issue takes a long time to formulate while Twitter gives you speed, gives you particularity. Twitter is the new Panchayat of politics, the new drawing room of politics. Ten years ago, you would not have thought of it. Twitter creates electronic conviviality."

Just take a look at the sequence of tweets and re-tweets between Kejriwal, Banerjee and Nitish. Just two days before the third phase of polling in Bihar on October 25, Mamata Banerjee had this to say:

Nitish Kumar thanked Mamta Banerjee on Twitter.

Mamata Banerjee's endorsement of Nitish Kumar was re-tweeted by Arvind Kejriwal.

That is not all. A day after Banerjee's tweet and before polling for the third phase in Bihar, on October 26, Arvind Kejriwal had this to tweet:

Almost immediately, Nitish Kumar thanked Kejriwal on Twitter And sure enough, the same day Mamata Banerjee re-tweeted Arvind Kejriwal:

Soon, a pattern revealed itself. On November 4, before the last day of polling in Bihar, Arvind Kejriwal tweeted his support for Nitish Kumar, again.

Kejriwal had predicted a redux of Delhi for Bihar on August 19 in the 'Bihar Samman Sammelan' in Delhi. As the curtains came down on polling in Bihar, he threw his weight behind Nitish Kumar, took potshots at Prime Minister Modi, brought the conversation back to cooperative federalism.

On Twitter, Kejriwal declared an affiliation which would have been politically inconvenient to achieve on the ground. How could Kejriwal, born out of the defining 2011 anti-corruption movement that made the Congress party bite the dust in 2014 general elections, campaign for Nitish Kumar, given the fact that the Mahagathbandhan had Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is out on bail in the mutli -crore fodder scam?

Twitter gave Kejriwal a platform to announce support and solidarity for Nitish Kumar, and at the same time lay claim to the legacy of the anti-corruption movement with mimimum compromise.

Visvanathan says, "The advantages are enormous, you can bypass the media which otherwise might not give them publicity, it becomes a public event that media cannot control, and gives you a sense that you can anticipate a new kind of politics. It has tremendous symbolic advantages particularly against someone like Modi who came to be a Master of Twitter. It gives them tremendous self confidence; they can score points, victories and appear in the public domain as more active, more amplified and complex than otherwise."

And there is more happening. The Delhi Police raid on Kerala House on a call that beef was served there had an unexpected fallout. Oomen Chandy, Kerala Chief Minister from the Congress, took to Twitter to thank Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal for their support.

Notwithstanding the bitter political relationship between their parties, Kejriwal and Chandy demonstrated respect for each other that was from chief minister to chief minister. However, it also opens up the possibility of a negotiation between the two parties in the future.

Post November 8, when results for Bihar elections will be out and should the BJP lose, expect the talk between the chief ministers on cooperative federalism and against communalism to only grow stronger. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will then have to contend with aggressive politics by non-NDA chief ministers. On Twitter, the triad of Kejriwal, Mamata and Nitish are succeeding in turning the tables on their prime political opponent.
First Published: November 6, 2015, 5:49 PM IST

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