I’m happy to share that we have hit another milestone today towards building a new and vibrant BiharÖ
Nitish Kumar on Facebook, November 1, 2013
Brand Bihar is the idea of building a state where the best ideas in society thrive and show the way to the country. We must show the way in how millions of youth will get skilled and earn respectable livelihoodÖ
Nitish Kumar on Facebook, July 22, 2014
Between then and now, the fortunes have swung for the man who Bihar thought would lead the state out of the woods.
So has his appeal on social media.
In September last year, Nitish Kumar, then Bihar’s chief minister, joined Facebook. Most of his posts and updates received laurels, praises and admiration.
The November 1 update on vibrant Bihar for example received 112 comments, all praising Nitish.
While some Facebookers said they were blessed to have a chief minister like him, many wrote “Jai Bihar” in the comments slot. Many others went on to say that he was the “best chief minister of the country” and the “would be” Prime Minister.
Since then, though, the tide has turned, as have the likes. Nitish and his digital-savvy associates are on the backfoot on social media.
No matter when Team Nitish posts or what the topic is, some of the “followers” are using the chance to ask searching questions, make skewering comments and execute ruthless dissections.
Take for instance Nitish’s Facebook post on Tuesday (July 22). The former chief minister posted an inspiring message about the idea of Brand Bihar and the ways in which to build that brand.
By evening, Nitish’s Facebook page was flooded with comments — many questioning his impending alliance with Lalu Prasad, others criticising his opposition to the BJP and almost all blaming him for Bihar’s failure to emerge as a brand in spite of Nitish being at the helm for almost nine years.
On July 21, Nitish took his Brand Bihar campaign a step ahead and joined networking site LinkedIn. There too, people didn’t spare him. A comment said: “JD (U) is getting ‘Congressed’ with the ego of Nitish Kumarji.” Another comment read: “We need a better neta.” A Facebook friend of the former CM said: “I am following the statements of the JD (U)ÖÖ if these are real then must say no one is going to help JDU + RJD.”
But the digital strikeback is by no means triggered by or confined to the dalliance with Lalu. The trend had begun sometime ago — and the subjects range from appeals for jobs to anger against rising crime and kidnappings and mounting corruption.
All of which suggest that in a state where criticism exacts a price, at least some people are using the outlets gifted by Nitish himself to draw his attention to perceived shortcomings and failures of the administration.
Office-holders in the JDU straightaway attacked the BJP, stating that they (those who made adverse comments) had hatched a conspiracy against the party, particularly Nitish.
“At present, the cyber world is dominated by the BJP and their primary motive is to malign the image of Nitish. We too have noticed the negative comments but one has to look at them closely. None of the comments is concerned with the development of Bihar and what Nitish did for the state when he was the chief minister. Most of the comments are centred around why he broke the alliance with the BJP. This shows that there is a conspiracy in the cyber world, which is being plotted by the BJP against Nitish. The whole thing is a set-up. The BJP tried to do the same thing to Rahul Gandhi too but the Congress has mechanisms to deal with it. This is nothing but a clear example of fascism and right-wing extremism,” said Ajay Alok, the spokesperson for the JDU.
However, the common man doesn’t agree that the negative comments are all being posted at the BJP’s bidding.
“The break of the alliance in June last year definitely had an impact with development and industrialisation going through a sudden rough patch which still continues. However, Nitish, on Facebook, didn’t get hit so much due to this decision. The BJP has done a historic job when it comes to fanning the Narendra Modi wave, making him extremely popular among the masses. However, it is mainly the worsening situation of development, law and order et al, which has angered the people. The fact that he has decided to join hands with the RJD has further aggravated the situation. Nitish got the support of Bihar mainly because the people wanted Lalu Prasad and the RJD out. He (Nitish) is mouthing new slogans like Brand Bihar to fuel confidence among the people but it is nothing but self-appeasement,” a prominent industrialist told The Telegraph under cover of anonymity.
Sociologists said the anger against Nitish was not a sudden phenomenon.
“When he was the chief minister, he talked about growth, power, industries. But where does one see development in the state? When he was the CM, there were many who used to appease him with sugary words on each of his updates. The common thinking goes that there are people who tend to paint skyscrapers hoping their personal work will be considered and looked into. But in Bihar, people are suffering and there is little or no development. Now the Lalu bomb is even scarier for the people. Nitish isn’t the chief minister any more and so those who were just there to appease him have stopped doing so. People feel they have been fooled and thus the reactions,” noted sociologist Hetukar Jha told The Telegraph.