AAM Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders have tried nearly all platforms of communication out there—they are on social media, they dominate websites like Quora, we see them in full-page advertisements in the newspapers and on hoardings at bus stops and hear its ministers, including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, speak directly to us on the radio. But what is Kejriwal’s personal platform of choice?
“Twitter! He is the only one who has the password to his Twitter handle. And he himself handles his account. He usually does this while being driven in his car. People like me give suggestions, but he takes his own call on his tweets,” says Ankit Lal, AAP’s head of IT and innovation wing, who has led AAP’s social media campaign in the past three elections.
With 9.27 million followers, Kejriwal has less than half the traction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (23.2 million followers) but he tweets far more prodigiously (he has 14.5k tweets on his account so far). He began tweeting seriously in 2011, riding on the anti-corruption movement. “Twitter is not everyone’s cup of tea. Conveying what you feel in 140 characters is an art Kejriwal has perfected over time,” says Lal.
The marked difference about how he handles his Twitter handle is that his is not just a one-way communication, of simply informing people what the government has done or plans to do. “Compare his account with those of other chief ministers like Akhilesh Yadav of UP and Nitish Kumar of Bihar. Kejriwal is different because he also retweets the views of others. Other chief ministers fight shy of doing it,” says Lal. “Since we do not hire any agency to manage our social media, Kejriwal’s gestures excite his followers. He replies to their questions and is often engaged in debate. He is in sync with what people and journalists are saying. He does not tolerate abuse even by his own supporters. He is not interested in any fake hype online.”
Lal recalls a few instances when Kejriwal had told AAP supporters to refrain from abusing people with contrary views. “Nobody from any other big party has come forward to say that abusing online is wrong. This underlines his overall approach towards social media communication,” says Lal.
After lashing out at the prime minister last year over the CBI raids at his office, he recently supported Narendra Modi’s decision to conduct surgical strikes across the LoC after the Uri terror attack. “We fully support PM on surgical strikes. Urge him to similarly counter Pak’s dirty propaganda. Do watch this msg,” he said as he released a video message of himself speaking on the strikes.
As chief minister and the most popular public face of the party, he is bombarded every day with complaints on everything from water to electricity to sanitation. Since he cannot respond to all, AAP has a cell which works somewhat like a customer service team. It forwards their complaints and queries to the right forums. Once in a while, the chief minister does respond to complaints. Sometime ago, a journalist had tweeted to him saying the Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital did not have electricity. “The chief minister got the power supply restored and tweeted about the same in no time,” says Lal.
Kejriwal also finds time to often retweet one of his favorite Twitter accounts, @TolstoySays. In between his pressing engagements, he tweets quotes by the famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy. “Frequently salvation comes precisely when it appears as though all is lost” was one of his recent tweets.