Ahmedabad: Gujarat’s ‘vikas’ (development) agenda, which had given its then chief minister Narendra Modi a major push in his 2014 campaign for Prime Ministership, has turned on its head with a local youth’s tongue-in-cheek social media posts saying ‘Vikas Has Gone Crazy’.
Some believe it all started with a Patidar youth, Sagar Savaliya, posting a photo on Facebook. It showed a state government bus with defunct rear tyres and a Gujarati caption saying, “The state transport buses are ours, but after you board them, the responsibility of your safety is yours. Stay back, Vikas has gone crazy”.
Gujarat Congress quickly latched on to the growing phenomenon and is producing hundreds of memes and satirical posts on social media, with the tagline of “Vikas Gaando Thayo Chhe” (Vikas Has Gone Crazy).
With the batch of humorous and satirical memes, pictures and videos flooding the internet right before the Assembly elections in November, it is giving BJP and its president Amit Shah some anxious moments.
Last week, Shah urged the Gujarat youth not to pay attention to “anti-BJP” propaganda on social media, while addressing a town-hall in Ahmedabad.
The irony of it is, however, the fact that the party which was the first to use online platforms for political mobilisation, is at the receiving end this time.
Not only are these memes full of humour, they are also addressing the day-to-day issues in Gujarat, like steep fuel prices, rising school fees, potholed roads, GST, etc. This is all the more crucial with only a few months left for the Gujarat elections.
With less than a week left for Navratri, the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) has now come up with a 2.5 minute garba video on the same.
In the audio-video capsule being widely circulated on social media, a group of youth can be seen dancing to a song whose lyrics are a satire on ‘good-governance’, the common refrain being ‘Vikas Gaando Thayo Chhe’.
Savaliya, a 20-year-old engineering student, runs a website called befamnews.com. Translated to English, 'befaam' would mean uncontrolled or riotous. Sagar is an active member of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and is close to its convener Hardik Patel.
Speaking to News18, he said, “Yes, I did coin the phrase. ‘Development has gone crazy’ has triggered thousands of social media messages. Honestly, I did not expect it to go to this extent. I was just trying to contradict the big development claims that the BJP leaders make in Gujarat.”
The Congress IT cell meanwhile claims that one of its volunteers floated the phrase on social media and it became an instant hit.
“Yes, the Patidars have been promoting the phrase 'Vikas Has Gone Crazy' in a big way, but it was one of our volunteers who first coined it sometime in August. Since then, a Facebook page has seen over 75,000 likes and over 80,000 people are following it,” Rohan Gupta, head of the GPCC IT Cell told News18.
Gupta added that the IT unit will further highlight issues faced by the people by tagging these with the phrase that has caught the imagination of social media users.
Nikunj Mehta, proprietor of Niksun Ad World Inc, the agency that has been entrusted with the task of publicity by the GPCC, said, his agency has not coined the concept.
“However, this will help in the overall campaign to a great extent. People have been appreciating the social media messages because they address the everyday issues being faced by the people. It will definitely help us in the main election campaign as well,” Mehta told News18.
The BJP, on its part, has been doing everything it can to contain the onslaught of memes on social media.
“Rahul Gandhi talks of lack of development. He must remember that the state-of-the-art Sabarmati Riverfront, standing on which he made these statements, was once a garbage dump. We will have to counter the charges that the Congress has been leveling at us,” Amit Shah said last Sunday.
When the media asked BJP state president Jitu Waghani about the memes going viral, he quipped, “At least in Gujarat, development is being discussed. In Congress ruled states, only corruption is discussed.”
Privately though, leaders admit that for the first time, BJP is at the receiving end of an aggressive social media campaign. This medium has so far been their territory for all these years.