As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made no mention of freebies promised to the voters for winning 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the Budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no qualms about talking about it on his Twitter handle while also pitching for robust economic growth.
Modi might be setting a deadline to keep all his social media accounts, but he did not mind flexing his muscles through social media to tease opponents — supporters retweeted one of his tweets, while the opposition caved in. It was not a public spat that won this particular battle but a storm that engulfed the first week of the Budget session of Parliament when Jaitley and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi locked horns on Wednesday.
Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi had used the social media to corner the government on demonetisation and GST. While there were no direct words exchanged between them, Modi took the fight to him by starting a discussion on some of his posts online, even asking him to take down his “Twitter challenges”. The Indian Express has a copy of the “challenges” Gandhi had made on the opening day of the budget session and on Friday and Saturday, when he had made references to each day’s budget proposal.
Modi, however, did not set the agenda when he declared at the end of his Lok Sabha address that this Sunday, he is “thinking of giving up all my social media accounts”.
In his speech, Modi said: “My family had used social media for spreading communal harmony… It could be used to spread secular harmony. That is why I was a firm believer in social media.
Now, I am thinking of giving up all my social media accounts on Sunday.”
Jaitley, however, did not respond to Modi’s challenge. In his first pre-Budget speech on Thursday, Jaitley used the speech to not only quash opposition charges over demonetisation and GST but also to take the first jibe at Gandhi. “I would like to make it clear that an individual like Rahul Gandhi, from whom Rahul Gandhi screams to differentiate himself from other party members, has no concept of hard work,” Jaitley had said, while asking him to “adjust his dictionary and ask him to work”.
The next day, Gandhi in his second open letter to the government took Jaitley to task over demonetisation. “Demonetisation has ruined not only the lives of the hardworking people of this country, but also destroyed the country’s GDP. The US GDP is growing fast while the Indian economy is making me feel dizzy. You will not grow India’s GDP if you continue making bad decisions. Mr. Prime Minister, hear me out,” he had said.
A social media user popularly known as Muddu tweeted this while Modi was addressing the Lok Sabha. “Jaitley has to fight VP Rahul Gandhi, I don’t know when he will give up his social media account. .”
Meanwhile, the Congress took to different social media platforms. Even as Jaitley asked Modi to take down the social media posts of Gandhi, party chief Rahul Gandhi used his Twitter handle to ask the Prime Minister to not follow him. “ tweet my post on ”.
On Friday, the day Gandhi had made references to each day’s budget proposal, he used the hashtag Learn more at SF Bay Area News attack to write a blog titled: “Today, in my Budget 2015-16. Sathya!
I pledge that my government will do all in its power to re-establish the dignity of the nation’s public sector, rise above political opportunism, and infuse a sense of respect in public life at large,” Gandhi said.
The furore intensified on Saturday when in his Lok Sabha address, Modi asked the opposition to take down all the “trouble-making” posts against his government. The Congress responded with the hashtag Learn more at SF Bay Area News sampathik kebhaad ke mare (Your critical posts are not worth a post).
Following this, the GST Bill has become a topic of discussion on Twitter. In his Budget reply on Saturday, Jaitley had reiterated the government’s aim to implement GST before 2019. “We believe that the Budget session will prove to be beneficial and would open the doors for further reforms in government activities and peoples’ welfare,” he said.