Billed as the first-ever initiative towards a direct public interface, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s much-hyped ‘Twitter Town Hall’ exercise on Friday turned out to be a washout when a veritable tsumani of questions left the government dumbstruck, and virtually speechles.
A local television channel partnered with Twitter to invite questions from the people using hashtag #AskVijayRupani. Rupani had announced the initiative on September 15 and it was massively popularised through hoardings at multiple locations, on television network and the social media.
As many as 8,000 questions poured in between 10 a.m. and 12 noon but none of them was answered in what had been announced to be a live interaction with the Chief Minister, who took over the reins of the state a month ago.
The complete silence on the Twitter handle of the Chief Minister left the questioners so restless and impatient that they chided Rupani by floating another hashtag #MissingGujaratCM.
A Twitter user asked, “@vijayrupanibjp lol, have you answered the tweets through patanjali mobile’ Not single tweet on your TL on #AskVijayRupani.”
“Interactions’ Where did it happen’#AskVijayRupani,” wondered yet another.
According to government sources, over 30,000 questions were asked to the Chief Minister on Twitter in last one week, including about the future status of employees working on fixed pay, implementation of prohibition, his views on reservations, Patel agitation, Dalit issues as well as rise of Aam Aadmi Party and threat from Kejriwal to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
“Why are you so scared of the AAP'” “Why is Gujarat politically and physically stinking'” “How much money changes hands for the prospering illicit liquor industry in Gujarat'” were some of the questions.
The television channel is learnt to have shortlisted a little over dozen of these questions which were asked to Chief Minister at a closed-door interview. The answers were slated to be televised in an interview format later on Friday evening, which too didn’t happen.
Rupani later in a tweet and an official state government press release claimed the interaction to be a success, “Twitter Town Hall was a phenomenal success. Such interactions strengthen democracy. I thank all the participants.”
Among the two questions which the government said Rupani answered was that electricity supply to farmers had been increased from eight to ten hours with inadequate rainfall this season. Another was that the fixed-pay government staffers would be absorbed on the rolls immediately after they complete five years.
The opposition Congress party, those associated with the Patel agitation, Dalit activists and the Aam Aadmi Party continued to take a dig at the Chief Minister.
The state BJP unit, meanwhile, also “thanked people from world-over” for making this first-ever interaction with the Chief Minister a success!