'Diya jalao' for COVID 19: Modi needs to practice his teachings and control fake news on social media

In his video message to the nation on Friday the Prime Minister talks about people’s collective power to win the invincible. However, he has made no concreate efforts to win over the confidence and represent the collective power of the political class of the country. Besides, huge amount of fake news is viral around his video message.

Siddheshwar  ShuklaSiddheshwar Shukla | Updated: 03-04-2020 16:55 IST | Created: 03-04-2020 15:12 IST
'Diya jalao' for COVID 19: Modi needs to practice his teachings and control fake news on social media
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Image Credit: ANI
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Light a lamp (diya) at 9 pm for 9 minutes on April 5! This message of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi immediately reminded the people of his previous teaching to fight against COVID 19 – ring the bell. It is not difficult to trace several similarities and dissimilarities between these two messages but the huge number of viral fake news items are highly disturbing. Immediately after he completed his video message, we saw at least three twitter hashtags trending on the top - #ModiVideoMessage, #9Baje9Minutes and #मोदी_मदारी_बंदर_कौन. Once again, the social media armies of Modi supporters and critics are engaged in a battle. Where is the collective resolve to fight against COVID 19 pandemic? 

We can’t assume that the Prime Minister is not aware of these things. His address to the nation on March 19 announcing Janata Curfew on March 22 had received an immediate positive response from the opposition but the criticism came much later. However, several opposition parliamentarians (MPs) started criticizing his video message on Friday, immediately after he concluded the speech while his cabinet colleagues and party workers are spreading his message on social media.

If he is unable to take the opposition into confidence, what is the point in reciting the number ‘130 crore Indians’ time and again? At the time of crisis like COVID 19 pandemic, the Prime Minister of India is expected to speak the voice of the nation not the voice of his supporters. In this fight against the COVID 19 pandemic, the Prime Minister needs to practice the theme of ‘collective strength’ he has been preaching through his messages. 

Fake News on Modi’s Messages 

Modi followers on social media are reportedly engaged in generating and creating fake news around his messages. They are explaining the 'hidden science' of his messages and creating propaganda. The message of Janata Curfew had created huge fake news on the line - ‘ringing bells and clapping will kill the COVID 19’ and now ‘lighting lamp will kill the virus as the temperature will increase’ are being made viral on social media. Who is responsible for such fake news? Why no action against those people?

Prime Minister neither criticized the previous fake news nor disowned the claims made by his blind supporters. This is highly disturbing and dangerous. As he is addressing the nation through social media, he or his office should disapprove of these fake news being made viral on twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. But his silence is divisive and spreading negativity and darkness. 

Prime Minister has made no reference to any misunderstanding caused by his previous message – ring the bell – during Janata Curfew. In over 11 minutes of the video message, he could not find even a few seconds to disapprove of fake news and fake claims. This has given the fertile ground for fake news on social media around his video message on Friday. 

Spirit of ‘Team India’ is missing   

We still remember his slogan of ‘cooperative federalism’ and ‘Team India’. Though coined for his development agenda, the country now urgently needs the slogan and the spirit to fight against the COVID 19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, we saw the states fighting lonely against the COVID 19 outbreak. Punjab was the first to announce complete curfew in the state. Initially, Rajasthan and Delhi were fighting single-handedly. The Central government was missing from the scene. Then Delhi was left alone to fight the problems of migrant workers, next came Uttar Pradesh. Why so much scattered action? The Chief Ministers of opposition parties are sulking while BJP ruled states are not able to take any major innovative steps. The state governments such as Karnataka and West Bengal had organized all-party meetings. There is no mechanism for regular dialogue between politicians across political affiliations. 

People of India were waiting for Team India. The first interaction of the Prime Minister with the Chief Ministers of the country was only on Thursday, April 2. The central government is more seen giving directions to the state governments rather than addressing their concerns and assisting them in the time of crisis. The Prime Minister and Union Cabinet Ministers are missing from the scene and the country has been left in the hands of a few senior bureaucrats. The communication and coordination are seen only between the officials of the Center and state governments but dialogues are not seen among political executives. 

Take Opposition into Confidence 

The failure of the Prime Minister to take the opposition leaders into confidence is clearly visible. There are several technological facilities to speak to the opposition leaders before making statements but the opposition has no idea about what the PM is going to tell the nation. There will definitely be suggestions of omission and commission. The Prime Minister first needs to address the concerns of opposition MPs and then come out with an all convincing statement to address the nation. 

How can he achieve his objectives of collective strength, if he is not able to take the opposition MPs into confidence? 

The economic repercussions of COVID 19 are real and the government needs to come out with a comprehensive plan to address the concerns of the opposition or at least convince the opposition that it is working on such a plan. There can be a committee of MPs drawn from across the political affiliations to address the economic problems to be faced by the nation. Lok Sabha MP and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has rightly suggested the PM to listen to economists. 

The lighting of the lamp is most likely to be a flop show if the Prime Minister fails to lead the nation as a caption. This captainship is more challenging than leading a cricket team because here you need to win the confidence of the rival team as well. The lamps irrespective of their numbers will not be able to address the problems of unemployment caused by COVID 19 pandemic. The concerns of the industries, markets, employees, employers, labour, farmers and poor people need to be addressed. The country really needs a robust implementable economic plan to revive economy in the post-COVID 19 India. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

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