Debating India


India Shining sparks a cyber war

Nilanjana Bhaduri JHA

Monday 1 March 2004, by JHA*Nilanjana Bhaduri

NEW DELHI: India shining? Now you have a nation betrayed. At least that’s the mouthful a group of young Congressman have named their effort to counter the BJP’s Internet blitzkrieg.

The government’s website has provoked the Kerala students wing of the Congress to put together one of their own - - duly inaugurated by party general secretary Vayalar Ravi on Monday. For those loath to key in those extra characters, will take you to the same.?

So while the seniors reel out, in all earnestness, reams and reams of figures in an attempt to prove "feel-good" is "fool-good", and "India shining" should actually be ’when India shone’, the young partymen have splashed photographs of the Gujarat riots and standard issue poverty pictures all over the new website that is presided over by one Nehru, two Nehru-Gandhis and one Gandhi, the Mahatma.

And if the BJP coinages are all the rage, this Congress website attempts some of its own. There is the predictable "feel bad factor" section, one on the "gross domestic discontent", an introduction "India fading", "national insecurity" and columns by senior partymen that teach a lesson in traditional Congress values like saying only what pleases the leader. That actually is another section - the leader speaks. Sonia Gandhi’s speeches.

In the opening column, Salman Khursheed writes, "The whole country, not just the Congress party, is waiting for the big story and the real ’good feel’ of our times - the role of a new generation of Nehru-Gandhi in politics. Nobody really knows what the decision will be or when. But the impact is already being felt..."

And then there is Mani Shankar Aiyar, who describes Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as "weary, puffed and old, the Prime Minister rose on his uncertain legs at close to midnight to reply a two-day long debate full of sound and fury."

Meanwhile, the party religiously keeps its pressure up on India shining. Even if it means reading the BJP’s past manifestoes more closely than most Congressman would read their own.

After announcing that a former BJP youth leader in UP, Rameshwar Rai, was joining the Congress, spokesman Abhishek Singhvi read out eight "false promises" made by the BJP in its 1999 manifesto. Accompanied by a song borrowed from Bollywood: "Vade pe tere mara gaya, banda main seedha sadha, vada tera vada."

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Pic: Posters have competition in the poll campaign-the Internet. (AP photo)

The Times of India, Monday, March 01, 2004.

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