At 6pm this evening, the official Twitter handle of Yuva Desh, Indian Youth Congress’ online magazine put out a meme mocking PM Narendra Modi’s past as a tea-seller. All hell broke loose for the Congress thereafter.
Congress was criticised for denigrating the position of the Prime Minister of India and making a classist jibe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power from being a poor tea-seller in Vadnagar, Gujarat to holding one of the country’s top constitutional positions.
Coming as this jibe did in the middle of a fireworks-laden Gujarat poll campaign, the state’s chief minister was one of the first to criticise this meme. Vijay Rupani tweeted, “This blatantly classist and anti-poor Tweet by the Youth Congress shows their mindset towards India’s poor. Does Crown Prince @OfficeOfRG support this?”
Following up on that, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The arrogance of the Congress Party and shameful anti-poor stand gets exposed from the official twitter of the Youth Congress that a person born in poverty in the family of a tea vendor cannot become the Prime Minister. No lessons learnt. Insulting popular mandate.”
The Congress was quick to condemn the tweet and extend its apologies. Party communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “INC strongly disapproves & rejects such humour through memes. Differences on policy and opinion aside, Congress culture imbibes respect for PM and all political opponents.”
National President of the Indian Youth Congress Amarinder Singh Raja explained, “Although the handle @Yuvadesh is being run by youth volunteers and not by @iyc ,we do not approve of such humour and apologise.” On cue, Yuva Desh immediately deleted the controversial tweet while extending its apologies to “Raja Sir”.
But the damage had been done. The faux pas had become debate fodder across news channels during prime-time.
But this isn’t a one-off time when Yuva Desh seems to have puts its foot in the mouth. Here’s another meme that is being highlighted after the fiasco.
While the Twitter handle of Yuva Desh seems to be on an overdrive deleting what could be perceived as objectionable tweets now, it has forgotten there is a screenshot for everything.
It is at such time that the now-sassy @OfficeOfRG Twitter handle’s silence on the controversy is found to be conspicuous.
It is even more so because only recently the soon-to-be coronated President of the Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi, had told his social media team to refrain from making any personal remarks during the Gujarat poll campaign.
It appears though that the “chaiwallah” row of 2014 (credit: Mani Shankar Aiyar) has come back to haunt the Congress ahead of a crucial election that they seemed to be closely contesting against the Bhartiya Janta Party.