Question is, if Gandhi and his social media rise is so insignificant, why does the Modi government feel the need to field senior ministers to counter him?

This can be witnessed with the jittery behaviour of many senior ministers of the Modi government who seems to be on an overtly defensive mode. Sample this. For every tweet done from Rahul Gandhi’s handle that is critical of the Modi government, Smriti Irani would instantly counter it with another tweet as if on cue. Whether it warrants the stature of a cabinet minister to come down to trolling on social media is a different debate altogether. Question is, if Gandhi and his social media rise is so insignificant, why does the Modi government feel the need to field senior ministers to counter him? Irani who had once called Rahul Gandhi a ‘failed politician’ incidentally lost the Amethi Lok Sabha elections in 2014 to the Congress scion. Quite an irony I must say.

Not only on Twitter, senior ministers like Smriti Irani, Piyush Goel and Nirmala Sitharaman have come out to attack Gandhi by holding regular press conferences. If anything, they’ve been ceding more ground and attention by doing so. Even in the absence of a fight, their behaviour is giving the electorate a sense that the ruling party is getting jittery and defensive. Interestingly, a recent story done by ANI claimed that Gandhi’s rise on his Twitter following, which jumped from 20 lakhs in May to nearly 37 lakhs, within the next two months can be attributed to bots. Same was claimed for the high volume of RTs that Gandhi had attracted, even crossing popular leaders like Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal who are the most and second most followed Indian politicians on Twitter respectively.

POLITICS

Union minister KJ Alphons was confronted by an enraged woman passenger at the Imphal airport over the delay in her Kolkata-bound flight she was taking to rush to Patna to attend a funeral of her relative.

Alphons today said he was not responsible for the delay of the flight due to VVIP security protocol after a video footage of the passenger identified as a lady doctor arguing and directing her ire at him on seeing the minister at the Imphal airport went viral.

The video of the incident that happened yesterday showed the woman complaining to Alphons about the flight being delayed due to VIP movement.

Alphons, who is Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism, had come to Imphal to attend the Northeast Development summit which was inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind yesterday. President Kovind’s aircraft was due to land in Imphal around the time of departure of the Kolkata-bound aircraft.

“The body is waiting, otherwise the body will decay. I am a doctor, I know that. The body is still at home.”

“I have to reach Patna. The body is waiting, otherwise the body will decay. I am a doctor, I know that. The body is still at home,” the woman can be heard pleading with Alphons, who tries to soothe her anger. She was also heard asking Alphons to give in writing what time her flight would take off.

The woman was booked on an IndiGo flight from Imphal to Kolkata from where she had to take a connecting flight to Patna.

On her repeated insistence to give her in writing as to what time the flight would depart, the minister is heard saying he does not have the authority to do so.

When contacted, Imphal Airport Director S K Panigrahi told PTI over phone at Kolkata that three flights were delayed due to the visit of President Kovind to the state yesterday.

“The commercial flights were delayed since the President’s flight was scheduled to arrive,” he said, adding none of the flights were cancelled.

The airport director said the three commercial flights were delayed between 90 minutes and two hours.

According to Alphons, he approached a woman crying at the airport and who could be seen in the video losing her cool.

“She was crying and I wanted to know what happened. She started saying that she had to go to Patna to attend a relative’s funeral which was scheduled in the afternoon. She was distraught because her flight was delayed and she feared the body will decay. As a representative of the government of India, she wanted me to intervene,” Alphons told PTI, amid allegations that he was the cause for the delay of the flight.

He was accompanied by some of his ministerial colleagues.

“She was crying and I wanted to know what happened. She started saying that she had to go to Patna to attend a relative’s funeral which was scheduled in the afternoon. She was distraught because her flight was delayed and she feared the body will decay.”

“I can understand her anguish but as I told her, the President’s flight was landing and as per protocol no other flight can land or take off at that time.

“This protocol is in place for the past 70 years and not made by this government. I tried to tell her that her flight will leave as soon as the President’s flight lands, but she was really in distress,” Alphons said.

The minister also said that he “was not in favour” of protocols that encourage VIP culture and that he has also informed officials that a pilot jeep should not be assigned for him.