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December 23, 2011

Tweeting Troubles: Why Kapil Sibal is not an idiot!

[From my column OBVIOUSLY OPAQUE in VOICE,16-31 December,2011]

His name is Kapil Sibal and he is not an idiot. I know most of the Indian citizens, nay, netizens to be more precise, would not merely disagree with that but also would do that violently. They have reasons for that. Did not Kapil Sibal is an idiot campaign put the internet on fire just a few days back? Wasn’t his name ‘trending’ second leaving other trends like Veena Malik and Sunny Leones far, far behind. Trending, for the uninitiated, is a measure of popularity of search terms, not necessarily for the person though, on the internet or its children like Facebook and Twitter.

So there he was, trending ahead of a post-Big Boss Sunny Leone and a post-FHM cover Veena Malik, another Big Boss veteran. You think it’s a mean task achievable by idiots? That too in a country where ogling at women, any women of any age, is a national pastime, and is seen and defended by the oglers as an inalienable right. In a country where the most sought after section of the morning newspaper is the supplement, especially the pages dedicated to the charms of Hollywood. In a country where most of the news magazines are flipped over from the back cover for the most important news items, some real idiots call that gossip, on the life and lifestyles of the celebrities!  

It was no mean task, it just could not be. After all he was trending despite the fact that Veena had finally and decisively demolished that long held belief that ISI was behind anything and everything that goes wrong in India. My heart wept for the politicians, more so for those on the right, for this tremendous loss of theirs. How would they explain their gargantuan failures now with the most preferred excuse of ‘ISI’s hand behind it vanishing with Veena’s clothes’? I could sense the collective gasp emanating out of their open mouths for such a failure. Uff Lord, the ones on mother earth and not the celestial ones I mean, why is RAW so inefficient in dealing with ISI implants in India both on the borders and in Bombay, they must have thought.

What should have been trending in the situation was a quest for new excuses that could explain their failures that are yet to come. That would have been logical with almost everyone in the government and the opposition being on Twitter. Don’t we have even that old chariot riding defender of Hindu culture and tradition gracing Twitter along with Digvijay Singh who is so much reviled by THE HINDUs? The only ones who have missed the Twitter bus are those from the Left, rightly named so in this case for being left behind. Maybe it’s not their policies but the absence of Left leaders on social networking sites that makes them look so passé, so old school to the ultra-mod and urbane netizens. Some disconnect they have with their times, isn’t it?

This reminds me of Tharoor who punctured the high flying balloon of the middleclass aspirations with his tweet and put them back to where they belong. He must have realized later that calling it ‘cattle class’ was not politically correct for hurting the sentiments of the cattle. The realization could not save his job in a country obsessed with maintaining hierarchy with elaborate details of code for everything like conduct, seating, speaking and even saluting. His resignation, I am certain, must have assuaged the hurt feelings of most of the cattle putting the issue to rest.

Sadly, neither are we as lucky as the cattle nor are all our politicos as suave and graceful as Mr Tharoor. No one seems to understand our plight of having to live with tweet by tweet humiliation we are subjected to. Have our sensibilities and intellect not been assaulted by the relentless and obtrusive tweeting from the likes of Sushma Swaraj to Omar Abdullah with all the Jaitly’s stuck in between. Aren’t their tweets almost always similarly worded and defend almost similar failures of their governments? Don’t they keep accusing the other for doing exactly what they did while in power and would do if they ever get back to it?

It is some pain for we, the supporters of free speech, cannot even ask for a regulatory authority to monitor these tweets, Damn that Voltaire who talked of defending anyone’s right to say something to death. Had he been born in our era of social networks in virtual world he would have modified his statement. Your right to speech I support, your right to tweet I don’t, he must have said.

Yet it was nothing of this but Kapil Sibal that was trending. Not one from this bandwagon has achieved the feat, not even famed for his tweets Tharoor. No mean task, I would repeat. I would also repeat that his name is Kapil Sibal and he is not an idiot. He is far more than that, not necessarily negatively, I mean.

In fact, nothing about Sibal can be mediocre. I had actually struggled making sense of Kapil Sibal is an idiot campaign. Idiot is a term that could define our intelligence but falls so terribly short of defining his. He has some special talents defying logic. Send him to clear some mess and he would, miraculously, produce more of it. Tell him to defend something and you would end up defending your decision of sending him in the first place.

These flairs, perhaps, are born out of those strolls he must had taken on the beautiful lawns that grace the famed Stephens College that, in turn, grace the country for the sheer fact that it exists. He must have acquired those special arithmetic talents that he used to put the losses in 2G spectrum scam at zero. This was, again, no mean task when every Indian citizen was enraged with the heavy losses pegged at billions of dollars by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, a constitutional authority. The situation was similar in the government ranks. Even the toughest ones could not say that there was no loss, all they did was contesting the numbers and shifting the blame to the compulsions of coalition.

Then, there came Kapil Sibal calculating the same losses to be zero. Though he is yet to share the special arithmetic formulae he used for the calculation, I am sure they must be of a different league altogether. Further, Kapil might have invented them himself and thus making himself the strongest contender for a Nobel Prize in Mathematics, maybe for a decade in a row. I was perplexed when neither he nor the selection committee made any moves for the same.
The response to his calculation was not that perplexing though. Suddenly, the suave Stephenian was turned into the national laughing stock. Everyone, from a common citizen, not the aam admi of the Congress but the real one, to even those within the government, was aghast with this absurdity.

The government was earlier embarrassed by all the scams tumbling out of the closet. Now, it was more embarrassed of the Sibalian audacity of negating that. Kapil Sibal had emerged victorious. What else is the job of a trouble shooter? With one single statement of his, the focus of the nation has shifted from the scam to his stupidity. The government was happy too because thanks to Sibal it now had two embarrassments to choose from. Having a choice is always the first step towards freedom, isn’t it?

Yet, his critics could have believed that his success was just a fluke. Realizing this, he decided to demolish any suspicions over his miraculous capacities and did that in style. He took on Anna Hazare who was nothing more than a fake version of Gandhi with a few thousand people supporting him and threw the 74 year old in jail. The same jail which was being graced by many of his former colleagues in the government from Kalmadi to Kanimozhi. The cameras followed the oldie, gates of Tihar were turned into a sight of carnival and hey.. Anna had become a phenomenon. Sibal had succeeded, again, in making out a national hero out of a hoodlum who beats drinkers in his village.

He has proved his utility to the government again. Earlier, the debate was focused on corruption and the mechanism to stop it. Now, it had a dimension added to it. That was the stupidity of Sibal in dealing with the issue. The government had a choice, again.

He seemed to be laying low for a while after that though we were to know that he was not really. He was silently communicating with internet giants like Google and Facebook. Communicating, in his case meant threatening for he was tremendously upset with the apparently morphed photographs of ‘his leaders’ doing the rounds on the net. He was telling them to put mechanism to filter objectionable contents and stop them from being uploaded. His sentiments were hurt he said and added later, the term religious to it. Three months of secret communications must have given him the time to find out contents that could hurt religious sentiments even if we are yet to hear a case of rioting incited by the use of social networking sites.

I am certain of his good intentions. All he wanted was to stop the riots and bring the probable perpetrators to books. What if the perpetrators of Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and Delhi carnage of Sikhs in 1984 are still roaming free? He is just a Telecom Minister and will do only what he could. The fact that this would amount to pre/realtime/post censorship in a country that is democratic is beside the point. The fact that law takes cognizance of only the crimes committed and does not otherwise attach criminality till violence is incited is, also, beside the point.

Kapil’s rants against the social networking sites, therefore, opened a new debate. They hinted of an Orwellian return into the dreaded days of emergency. What they did not hint at though was the fact that the world has changed a lot. So much so, that even an all pervasive state like China cannot effectively censor the internet. Think of that, and of the efficiency of Indian officialdom and you know what would be the future of censorship.

He has achieved a new feat in the process, though. By targeting his ire at the objectionable photographs of his leaders and then justifying it by adding hurting religious sentiments he has brought the culture of sycophancy to a new high. He has also marked the definitive victory of the modern, urban middleclass over the rural ones. They are better than the rustic ones in everything, even sycophancy.

Not that Kapil Sibal is the worst of them. There are many far worse than him. Just that he knows how to snatch the claim for himself. He just makes the other look less despicable than him. In politics, being stupid is a trait worse than being dictatorial. Sibal has managed to be both at the same time. That is Kapil No Loss in 2G Sibal demystified.

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