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Mamata debuts on FB to canvass for Kalam

- Pranab stand draws posers

A rally organised by Trinamul at Metro Channel in support of the demand for Kalam as President.
(Sanat Kumar Sinha)

Calcutta, June 16: Mamata Banerjee has debuted on Facebook with a Tagore poem and an appeal to the people to support her pick for President: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

The page is described as the “official page of Mamata Banerjee, founder and leader of All India Trinamul Congress” and “a humble, transparent, common person”.

“Today, I am starting a dynamic engagement process with all of you through this page. This is my first post on this page. I am a humble, transparent, common person like the vast majority of you,” reads the first post on the page.

Taking her campaign for Kalam online, the chief minister said she just gave “voice to the choice of millions of Indians”.

Her post goes on to describe Kalam as “a man of integrity” and “a seeker of truth, a fount of knowledge and an impartial voice of reason and sanity, who is above narrow politics”.

“He embodies qualities I greatly admire and believe in practising daily,” the post reads.

Through the post, Mamata has urged people to petition their public representatives to stand up, support and vote for Kalam. She said she stood by the position she had taken.

The post also cites Tagore’s “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”, lines often quoted by Mamata.

The Facebook page had generated over 5,000 likes by 8.30pm, but only about a half of them gave a thumbs-up to the canvassing for Kalam. Around 2,821 liked the post, 1,128 shared it and 1,402 commented on it.

“We don’t only use the social media, we embrace it,” said Trinamul Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien. “Our chief minister has taken to Facebook to ensure 360-degree communication with the people.”

If that was the objective, the chief minister also got a taste of it. Many posted comments requesting her to “support Pranabda”. Someone identified as Diamond Chakraborty wrote: “I honour and respect you a lot. That is why I want to know from you why you aren’t supporting him. Please let us know.”

That Mamata was seriously into Facebook became evident when she was leaving Writers’ for the day. Asked about the presidential elections, she said: “I have said what I had to on Facebook today.”

She added: “I will not say anything more…. Four thousand people support (‘like’ her page) it now; the number will go up to four lakh in no time.”

Although popular support means little in the presidential race, about 100 Trinamul supporters took the more familiar way of seeking support for Kalam. They marched from NRS Hospital in Sealdah to Esplanade this afternoon.

The supporters refrained from carrying party flags to try and convey the impression that they were people with no links with Trinamul, which thinks Kalam is the most suitable man for the post. Police officers, who have managed several rallies in the city, recognised many faces as regulars at Trinamul rallies.

Some of Mamata’s fan pages on Facebook also mention Kalam. One such page carries a post that appeals to Kalam to contest the presidential polls even if the numbers don’t back him.

A party source said Mamata was “tuned to the world of Twitter and Facebook” and had been toying with the idea of joining Facebook for a while. “This, she thought, was an opportune moment.”

The chief minister, who has a smartphone and an iPad, will post comments herself.

There was a caution, though, from the page administrators of “Mamata Banerjee”: be civil and respectful.

“All points of view are welcome on this page but we ask that comments be civil. The administrators will delete comments that use profane or offensive language. Thank you for your help in keeping this page an environment for all to participate in an open and respectful way.”

Many saw in Mamata’s Facebook foray an attempt to mend her image among urban youths that may have taken a beating after the arrest of Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra on April 12 for circulating email clips of a joke lampooning the chief minister.