Sunday, June 5, 2011

Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare & Social Media - Difference of opinion

While Anna Hazare's fasting won so many supporters including Indian social media users and celebrities, Baba Ramdev found little support from contemporaries. In the words of Abbie Hoffman, "Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit." Despite this same spirit, the dichotomy of reactions of social media users towards the leaders of these movements is surprising and calls for an in-depth understanding and discussion. Moreover, the government needs to criticized for taking a violent and forceful approach to this peaceful revolution. Coincidently, the crack down of Delhi Police on Baba Ramdev (also called "the midnight drama") happened on the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. 

Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, (assuming there is no hidden agenda to Baba Ramdev's entry) despite having a common cause have witnessed a completely different reaction, more divided than what is being projected by the popular media. Celebrities such as Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan have come out in the open and mocked Baba Ramdev, whereas the opposition i.e. BJP and RSS are openly supporting Baba Ramdev's cause. It was diametrically opposite when Anna Hazare took on the burden of fighting for Jan Lokpal bill. He had celebrities backing him, especially Anupam Kher, he had the support of many more celebrities on the virtual media and most importantly the sentiment about Anna Hazare on social media was positive. 
Clearly Baba Ramdev's venture into the domain of Anna Hazare i.e. fasting and routing out corruption has gone on a different course. Although Indian twitter users are not a good representation of the Indian population they have given Baba Ramdev's entry a thumbs down. The sentiment is against Baba with a twitter sentiment analysis tool reporting the negative sentiment in excess of 70%. Popular media too has been criticizing Baba, but then it is hard to trust media guys after listening to the tapes of Amar Singh, Prabhu Chawla and reading the Nira Radia case. If Baba's movement is successful, then it clearly shows that Indian social media users and online opinion makers are elite and an incorrect representation of the common man. 
Difference in the sentiment of twitter users towards Anna Hazare & Baba Ramdev

More importantly, the thoughts of Social Media users are poles apart. Here are some of the opinions that twitter users had about Baba Ramdev.
@RightWing_Rants: The only Baba the CONgress has respect for is 40 yr old youth Rahul Baba! #Rahulfacts #Ramdev
@iDaAmar: Does that mean now #baba #ramdev enters d list featuringg likes of rakhi sawants ?? #nautanki Baba Ramdev cant make Gvt. run for his fast.. they know he is a freak and can live till eternity without food.
@KiranKS: Any 'intellectual', who pokes most fun of #Ramdev via #FastingBill2011, will get 3 biscuits under Rajiv Gandhi Brashtachar Bachao Yojna!
@taslimanasreen: If #Ramdev dies on hunger strike,who'll get his thousands of crores? Shldn't he donate all his money to charity bfor he starts fasting?
Baba Ramdev's has few but strongly loyal supporter base
@Kothari_AnkitIt's disgusting to c media criticizing #Ramdev. Rahul's eating Chicken Roll becomes breaking news, bt nt Ramdev's crusade against corruption
Anna Hazare's Social Media revolution
Anna Hazare had a greater base of twitter users giving him a thumbs up. He got positive opinions and a strong support base. Here are some tweets about Anna Hazare.
@Anupam Kher: Have decided to go to Jantar Mantar in support of Anna Hazare and millions of INDIANS who are sick and tired of corruption in our country.:)
@Farhan Akhtar:I support Anna Hazare. Our country has suffered from corruption for too long... NOW is the time we get together and do something about it.
@Rakesh Bhatt@narendramodi show support for Anna Hazare sir. It is time to support the great man.
The Reason...
I feel the reason for this difference is due to two possible causes - Firstly, celebrities don't find Anna hazare a threat to their own star power, but when it comes to Baba Ramdev, his follower base and fan following is seen as a threat. Since celebrities have their own vested interests such as launch of movies, like Salman khan all set for releasing "Ready", and Shahrukh Khan for Ra.One their coming in news is important. They cannot join Baba Ramdev since his personality will overshadow their support. Hence they are opposing them by alleging that the Baba has his own political ambitions. The second reason could be that the opinion makers on Indian Social Media are mostly journalists or elite educated people. They can be driven by news channels that probably have government's backing or can be out of sync with common man. The implications for this research are important. If the opinion on Social media differs from the opinion of common man, then my logic of Indian social media users being elitist makes sense. But, if that is not the case, then it means that the supporters of Baba Ramdev have been given incentives to come on this revolution against corruption. This would prove the Baba is fake. As of now both sides of the coin are equally potent because the complete picture of Baba's motives is not clear and so is the representativeness of the opinion formed on Social Media. It will be a wait and watch game. The important thing to note is that there are a set of leaders like Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare, independent of any political vendetta that have risen to the occasion that concerns national interests and a cause that will help India in the long run. Equal importance and criticism needs to be given to the government that has made use of brutal force despite a round of talks taking place and thus bludgeoning the spirit of world's largest democracy, India. In the words of chesterton, "You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution." Jai Ho!