“We also have to discuss the impact and political ramifications of the social media. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, you don’t need any organisation to mobilise people within minutes and hours... Although we are not worried about them, as a political party we need to understand how to deal with them,” said a senior AICC functionary.
The ruling party’s concern comes in the backdrop of young protesters gathering outside the corridors of power in New Delhi last month to protest against the gangrape. Initially, no organisations were involved in mobilising them and public reactions appeared to be spontaneous. The sudden gatherings caught the police by surprise, and they responded with tear gas shells and lathicharge, drawing sharp criticism against the government.
“Flash mob is a new phenomenon... sometimes they gather to sing and dance, but sometimes they can gather to protest also.
We need to take note of it. I don’t think we are fully prepared to deal with it. We need to devise SOPs (standard operating procedures),” Finance P Chidambaram had then said.
During its two-day brainstorming session, the Congress is set to look at such protests not just in the context of the recent gangrape but in a larger framework including people’s response to the agitations launched by Anna Hazare, Ramdev and others in recent times.
“We have to see where we went wrong politically and where the government mishandled it. We know that the government should not have panicked and set up a joint committee with civil society activists to draft the Lokpal Bill. We also know that senior ministers should not have gone to the airport to receive Ramdev. But all these realisations have come in hindsight. We have to have a clear political strategy to handle such scenarios,” said an AICC general secretary.
The UPA government is already studying the emergence of the social media and how to deal with it. Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari is learnt to be looking at ways to increase the government’s presence and putting the official views across on the social media in a more consistent, cohesive and comprehensive manner.
The attempt is to ensure that any campaign on the medium concerning the government is immediately and adequately responded to, said sources.