By Sandeep Sahu
A woman MLA from the BJD had an interesting answer when this question was asked to her by the anchor on a television talk show recently. “Naveen Babu lives in every Odia’s heart. So, he does not have to be on the social media,” gushed the lady, who readily admitted later in the show that she was very much on Facebook and had indeed benefited ‘immensely’ from it.
The question set me thinking. If living in ‘people’s hearts’ is enough ground for a politician not to be on social media, how is it that the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ has one of the largest following on social media? The mind inevitably went back to the 2009 Assembly elections in the run-up to which many voters in the state received a pre-recorded appeal for votes by the BJD supremo on their mobile phones. Of course, one can argue that a mobile phone is not quite the same thing as social media. But the point is: someone who lives in ‘people’s hearts’ does not need to send voice messages to them on the phone either; does he?
The truth, I dare say, is entirely different. Naveen’s decision not to be on social media is part of his overall media strategy. He is not on Twitter or Facebook for the same reason that he has not held a single proper press conference or given a single full-length interview to an Odisha based television channel or a newspaper. His strategy is to keep the Odisha media at arm’s length and cosy up only to the Delhi press. And even in Delhi, he would pick and choose the channels and journalists carefully.
The strategy, one must admit, has worked just fine for him though the journalist tribe in the state, long used to getting their way through the power corridors, is not quite happy with it. By keeping the local hacks at bay, he has managed to puncture their king sized egos to the point where they have forgot to ask questions and raise fingers at him. By scrupulously following his well thought out strategy of answering only questions that he feels like answering – and that too at a time and place of his choosing – he has ensured that he cannot be quoted ‘out of context’.
In sharp contrast to the motor mouths who hog the television space these days, Naveen would not speak a word more than he has come prepared for (or has been prepared for by his babus, as the cynics would say), thereby ruling out the possibility of saying something which might land him in trouble later. His statements are always bland – to the point of being banal at times – and devoid of the ‘juice’ that hacks all over the world are constantly on the lookout for. It may leave the scribes exasperated, but serves the purposes of Naveen just fine.
Naveen’s strategy to keep the media at bay can also be seen as his overall strategy to keep the people at large at bay. In total contrast to his late father, Naveen would certainly go down in the history of Odisha as the most inaccessible Chief Minister that the state has ever seen. He guards his private place zealously and nobody, least of all the media, is ever allowed to venture anywhere near it. The walls that he has built around himself are taller than the walls of Naveen Nivas. That being the case, is it not asking for the moon to expect him to respond to queries and comments from ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ all day long?