RISE OFTHE CYBER HINDU
An ever-growing online community of pro-hindu, pro-bjp, pro-narendra Modi, right-wing tweeters has taken over political discourse on the Internet
The sun has risen in Mumbai’s Juhu area. Its rays, shimmering off the Arabian Sea at India’s most eulogised beach, have woken up Priti Gandhi, a 35-yearold housewife who lives barely a stone’s throw away. It’s a regular morning at the Gandhi home. She sends her eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son to school. She has a cup of chai with her investment banker husband before he rushes off to work. Then, her second life begins.
Over in Delhi, 32-year-old Vikas Pandey is leaving for office, looking every bit a member of India’s bright, new workforce—close-shave, crisp shirt, black trousers, dark socks and leather loafers. Later, sitting with his friends for an after-work coffee in Bengali Market, he disappears periodically into the depths of his phone. Pandey is meticulously juggling his real world, where he is just another computer geek, and his parallel universe, in which he is a mini-celebrity.
Better known as @MrsGandhi and @iSupportNaMo on Twitter, with 30,000 and 18,000 followers respectively at last count, Gandhi and Pandey are among the most noticeable members of a fervent pro-Hindu, pro- BJP, pro-Narendra Modi, rightwing Internet community that dominates every social media discussion and every online forum.
This community may be guided loosely by BJP’S information technology cell—a 100-strong team of techies and social media managers run from the party’s head office at 11, Ashoka Road—and by prime ministerial candidate Modi’s own unit in Ahmedabad, but it is an organic, uncontrollable, multi-faceted entity made up of people all around us. They could be in the next cubicle in your workplace or on the next desk in your classroom. Always scouring the Internet on their smartphones, they are connected with each other through an intangible network that is pulling people from different backgrounds. They feel their voices are finally being heard, and amplified, by like-minded political activists who operate on social media.
A mark of their overwhelming online supremacy can be found in the India Today Group’s e-lection poll, a mock online General Election in which users were asked to vote in Lok Sabha constituencies across India. The ballot worked through one-time passwords sent to mobile phones, ensuring only one vote for every cell number to prevent rigging. Of the unprecedented 556,460 votes that were cast over a 40-day period till October 30, 338,401 users chose BJP ( see box). Even in Uttar Pradesh, which witnesses a four-cornered contest every election, 87.1 per cent of the voters went with the BJP. The results from this self-selected sample may not reflect the ground reality but they prove one thing beyond a shadow of doubt: The Internet is saffron.
Internet penetration in India is only 10 per cent, with nearly 116.18 million users, according to Estatsindia.com. But a Google survey in October said four out of every 10 urban Indian voters, or 37 per cent, are now online.
The right-leaning online collective—