Everything you wanted to know about social media in Indian politics and elections

By Shivam Vij

(This article first appeared in The Telegraph on 31 March 2019.)

Sometime in the late 2000s, a young software engineer who voluntarily ran social media propaganda for the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party got an opportunity to attend a BJP social media meet in Bangalore. Among the people who saw this young man speak there was the then Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi. “Why don’t you do something for me,” Modi said to him, encouraging him to promote Modi on social media. Around the same time, the Congress party was telling Shashi Tharoor to go easy on Twitter.

Today that young man is arguably one of India’s most important people, part of a select group of people informally used by the top echelons of the ruling party and the government to influence the online narrative. He’s regularly trying to make this or that trend

on Twitter, running WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages that reach millions of people. When he met Modi during the 2014 campaign, the PM-to-be told him, “Keep it up. We have to make mainstream media irrelevant.” Continue reading “Everything you wanted to know about social media in Indian politics and elections”

In Uttar Pradesh, the third Modi wave is as strong as 2014 and 2017

By Shivam Vij

(This article first appeared in ThePrint on 15 March 2019.)

Phulpur/Jaunpur: There’s a lot that has changed in eastern Uttar Pradesh since 2014. Thanks to the Ardh Kumbh Mela, the government has laid out the best roads. On either side of these shiny new roads, stray cows chew away farmers’ fragile incomes. Smartphones are now ubiquitous. Yet, there’s one thing that has not changed: The popularity of Narendra Modi. Continue reading “In Uttar Pradesh, the third Modi wave is as strong as 2014 and 2017”

Remember Arvind Kejriwal? Here’s how AAP lost the national plot

By Shivam Vij

(This article first appeared in ThePrint on 25 December 2018.)

It seems like a long time ago when the AAP occupied the national political mindspace. Continue reading “Remember Arvind Kejriwal? Here’s how AAP lost the national plot”

When A Pakistani Hindu Visited Delhi’s Jama Masjid

By Shivam Vij

(This article first appeared in HuffingtonPost.in on 26 July 2016.)

 

Jama Masjid

On a hot summer afternoon in Delhi, my Pakistani Hindu friend was visiting the Jama Masjid. After all, he had come to tour Delhi. In the evening, we met in a restaurant in Connaught Place.

He was staying with a relative in Mehrauli, where the (Indian, Hindu) neighbour told him not to cross the road. “Muslims live there,” the neighbour warned. That was funny, because our visitor lived in Pakistan, where no roads could be crossed without meeting Muslims. Continue reading “When A Pakistani Hindu Visited Delhi’s Jama Masjid”

The Reader Is Not Interested In The Story

(First published in Scroll.in, 9 December 2014.)

Some years ago, I was a reporter in the founding team of a new news magazine. When the magazine launched, the marketing team sent journalists an email saying that we could gift four free subscriptions to anyone we liked, but could we please make sure the four recipients fell within the magazine’s TG? Continue reading “The Reader Is Not Interested In The Story”

Why the Congress party should stop apologising about dynasty

By Shivam Vij for ThePrint.in, 31 October 2018

(From left)  Krishna Kumari, Swarup Rani, Motilal Nehru, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and Jawaharlal Nehru.
(From left) Krishna Kumari, Swarup Rani, Motilal Nehru, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and Jawaharlal Nehru.

Continue reading “Why the Congress party should stop apologising about dynasty”

Why Pakistan Exports More Mangoes Than India

(First published in HuffPost India in April 2017.)

It’s that time of the year again when Pakistani mango nationalists start beating the war drums, raising their claims of mango superiority to decibel levels that cross the noise pollution mark.

The campaign has begun. It’s not even May yet. Lies, damned lies and statistics are being used to suggest Pakistani mangoes are better. Looking for foreign approval as always, Pakistanis are tom-tomming export figures that show Pakistan exports more mangoes than India, even though India produces a lot more of them. Continue reading “Why Pakistan Exports More Mangoes Than India”

India-Pakistan ‘mango diplomacy’ isn’t fruitful

(First published by BBC in July 2015.)

In a South Asian tradition, Pakistani leaders send mangoes to their Indian counterparts every year. The fabled ‘mango diplomacy’, however, does not really help lower tensions between the two neighbours, writes Shivam Vij. Continue reading “India-Pakistan ‘mango diplomacy’ isn’t fruitful”

Why Indian mangoes are better than Pakistani ones

(This article has previously appeared in Scroll, Quartz India, The Express Tribune and Dawn in the summers of 2014 and 2015.)

Photo credit: Prabhav Shandilya

I am telling nothing but the truth when I tell you that Indian mangoes are better than Pakistani mangoes. It infuriates me when Pakistanis don’t agree. That makes mangoes an India-Pakistan dispute just like Kashmir. Like a good Indian, I don’t think this needs a referendum. Of course our mangoes are better. How could anyone even think that isn’t the case? Continue reading “Why Indian mangoes are better than Pakistani ones”

Why The BJP Can’t Pretend Bihar Isn’t A Turning Point

(First published in HuffPo, 16 November 2015.)

Home minister Rajnath Singh, himself a former president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has this to say on the BJP’s resounding defeat in Bihar: “Victory and defeat are part of the democratic process. We had won elections in the past, we had lost elections in the past. We will not do justice to future if we decide future only on the basis of one elections.”

The top leadership of the BJP is playing down the Bihar defeat. The opponents came together, they say. We lost to their caste arithmetic. It’s just one election. We still got a good vote-share. Continue reading “Why The BJP Can’t Pretend Bihar Isn’t A Turning Point”