Elephant in the room – Book review of ‘The Big Connect’ by Shaili Chopra
There could not have been a better time for the release of this book by award winning journalist Shaili Chopra. At the outset she must be thanked for three things. Firstly for embarking on a topic that has gained tremendous significance in recent times. Secondly for bringing it out at a time when this significance is getting translated on ground. And thirdly for a meticulously researched piece of work
‘In this new era, every tweet counts’. The first sentence of the book sets the tone for what is to follow. The Big Connect – Politics in the age of social media is perhaps the few published books at present that deal with how social media, the Web 2.0 tools and platforms have had an impact on Indian politics. With the revolution in accessibility to internet, politicians have found a new dimension to reach out and receive feedback. The book discusses various elements associated with this new dimension.
Ms Chopra straightway deals with the recent events that has shaped politics in conjunction with social media, be it the humongous social media PR exercise of Narendra Modi, the rise of Arvind Kejriwal led AAP or the measured distance of Rahul Gandhi. She delves into the budget allocation by the parties for social media, teams which manage these and the platforms. In Chapter 4, a good introduction to the platforms, primarily Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube is provided. The author educates the readers on how politics and social media were married during Barack Obamas campaign and has since captured imaginations in political arena.
Chapter 5 describes major events of the recent past with a social media connect, beginning from the Osama Raid which was liveblogged to The Arab Spring to the Delhi gangrape to the cattleclass controversy to Tehelka Goa sexual assault case. It is the next three chapters that brings the best in the book. ‘The First Mover Advantage’, ‘Reluctant Followers’ and ‘Social Media Wonder’, dedicated to Modi, Rahul and Kejriwal respectively discusses how these three Indian politicians deal with social media.
It is in these chapters that the blitzkrieg that Narendra Modi's social media campaign has created comes out. 1.19 billion Facebook active users, nearly 40 lakhs Twitter followers (Jan 2013) (which as on 4.14.14 is at 3.74 million), NitiCentral, india272.com, NRI management are all part of brand Modi. All this has resulted in creation of a larger than life persona which we see today. In sharp contrast is Rahul Gandhi (and Congress) who has not actively involved in social media and has been at the receiving end of a slew of jokes. AAP scripts a social media success story, now being emulated by many.
Chapter 10 deals with the most contemporary issue – elections 2014. It discusses how about 160 of the 543 seats have been suggested to be swayed by public perception built by social media. It will be only interesting to see the result of these constituencies. The last two chapters are more reflective which discusses the social churning owing to social media and its credibility issues.
The Big Connect is an elephant in the room for most political parties barring the BJP and AAP who have made optimum use of it. Whether one like it or not connecting with people via platforms of social media will largely determine the approachability, responsibility and transparency of the new-age neta. The book could have been crisper; facts repeat at various stages of the book. A lacking is also sensed in greater discussion of relevance of social media with respect to the millions who still do not have access to twitter on their smartphones or how ground realities could be different than the virtual world.
In the cusp of general elections 2014, with social media being used by parties and politicians like never before, and the social impact of social media being discussed in various narratives, Shaili Chopra’s well researched ‘The Big Connect’ makes for an interesting and captivating read.
The book can be bought at: