Two days ago, TIE Pune posted a Facebook update - interactive session with Vinit Goenka, National Co-Convener IT Cell, BJP on 19th evening. The session was about how the party leveraged social media during the recent general elections. While India has already read and observed how social media was and is still being effectively used by BJP but listening from the horse’s mouth was an opportunity that I wasn’t ready to let go.
I was at the venue 10 minutes early while known and unknown faces sipped tea and exchanged cards. The MCCIA hall was opened and in a matter of five minutes it was a full house with quite a few standees who joined in late for the session. It was wonderful to know how many of us were interested in the subject and the man who would be at the venue in a while.
Comfortably seated in a corner seat of the middle row, I began tweeting the early thoughts from TIE Pune President Vishwas Mahajan who spoke for a few minutes about the group and how entrepreneurs could benefit from the various engagements by the Pune chapter all throughout the year.
Within moments Vinit was called upon the stage to take the evening further. Dressed in simple formals, (quite a relief to see a politician who looks like one of us) asked the audience how should we take this evening further. “I have been talking in forums and events for the last two years. Today I want to do something different - you ask me questions and I will answer them for the next 30-40 minutes and in the rest 20 minutes I will try to add up what might have been missed,” said Vinit to a completely silent crowd charmed by the smiling gentleman.
He managed to convince the crowd with his next question - “Why should we deprive our people from asking questions in this democracy. For a politician two things matter - philosophy and voters. You are my voters please ask me anything, I will do my best.”
Thus started an interactive session in true sense. The first question - Is our PM Narendra Modi a dictator? Vinit responded that our PM is a no dictator but a firm leader. “My leader is a firm and strong leader who is focused to do good for the country. Achhe din aa gaye hain hum sabhi ke leye (good days have come for all of us).”
Moving ahead the next question was on his own personal journey - How did you get into this job and what was the strategy of BJP for social media during the elections? It was rather a coincidence and nostalgic moment for Vinit since Pune was also the last city where he was employed with IBM back in 2003.
With his heart always into policies, Vinit rose to the moment when way back the late Pramod Mahajan from BJP had asked youngsters to join politics. “It has taken me 11 years to where I am today and you can’t become a politician if your family is not supporting you. I had a nice job which I left to chase where my heart was and my family stood with me.”
Talking about the early days of social media, he shared that he was lucky to belong to a party that always believed in doing new things. “Back in 2007 we had started with small experiments with Orkut, SMS and emails. I was fortunate to be part of a team that organized first bloggers meet, CEO meet, among other things.” All these activities took a huge leap when Narendra Modi himself started using social media. “It took 8 years for BJP to reach where it is today on social media,” Vinit informed.
The discussion moved further to political questions and Modi’s stance on it, Vinit happily answered them despite the session being focused on social media. The next question that caught my ears was about how the present government would implement E-governance at local levels, which is marred by corruption. “Minimum govt and maximum governance has been our motto. We are moving from paper to paperless, use of tools will make us effective and my party is committed to it. Digital India movement is happening, give us some time and you will see things rolling,” he said.
Sipping on tea, Vinit, at various points touched upon his upbringing, how great Indian leaders touched his thinking pattern and the various lessons he had learned all the way. Not forgetting the much required funny anecdotes and the funny one liners to keep the audience with him - “Mein kuch kartha nahi hoon, meri team karthi hai aur free ka credit miltha hai mujhe (I don’t work, it is my team that does for which I get free credit).”
From the good side of social media to the darker side, I happened to ask what are his thoughts on social media being made responsible every time something went wrong in the society. “My party is not against blocking free speech and social media.” He said there should be an amendment to IT Act 66A if required but at the same time he spoke about having a structural institution to educate people about social media. While a majority of the audience wasn’t aware of the IT Act, Vinit added that we should look into it, have discussions and the matter will be looked upon if required.
So far so good but one’s social media skills are tested during bad times. The UPA government failed on this front as it was desperate to curb social media and before it could realize the powers of the medium it was voted out.
Talking about media - Vinit said that media has played a fantastic role in this country’s democracy but a few black sheep are to be found everywhere. He also shared how BJP used social media as a many-to-many channel of communication when a certain section of media wasn’t listening to them. “We have tried to break the circle where a leader speaks to media and then media takes it to the people. My leader wants to talk to his people directly, tell his people on a day to day basis what he is doing so that transparency is there and social media has made it possible. It is a medium of many to many.”
It was more than an hour and Vinit was still taking questions without a fuss. He also ran through a social media presentation while talking about how the communication medium has changed over the time. Finally the session had to be wrapped up even if the questions poured in. The floor was then open for selfies and a round of handshake with Vinit and his team also present at the event.
While on my ride back, I felt enriched from the hour long session - in addition to social media knowledge, I was also informed that the first seeds of democracy were sown in the independent ‘republics’ of India, sanghas and ganas, which existed as early as the sixth century BC.
Image credit: Facebook