Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been one BJP minister in the Centre’s Narendra Modi government, who has often earned plaudits from citizens for adding a humane touch to her ministry.
From ailing Pakistani patients wanting to travel to India to Indians placed in a spot of bother overseas, Swaraj has bailed them out all using her social media pages, particularly Twitter. No wonder she enjoys support from people cutting across political ideologies.
Only a few days ago, she had asked for strict action against an officer for the delay in issuing a passport to a child on the grounds of conducting a police verification.
Taking to Twitter, an angry Swaraj had said that the existing rules did not warrant a police verification for a child while applying for a new passport. She wrote, “Police verification is not required for children. I have asked the @CPVIndia to give her the passport without police verification and take strict action against the concerned officer.”
Police verification is not required for children. I have asked the @CPVIndia to give her the passport without police verification and take strict action against the concerned officer. https://t.co/KSjgDw6OGJ
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) June 16, 2018
But on Saturday, the affable minister was facing nasty backlash on her Facebook page from her own BJP supporters, some of whom even demanded her removal from Modi’s cabinet for allegedly being too secular. This was after her ministry’s intervention had resulted in the transfer of a passport officer in Lucknow.
Vikas Mishra, the passport officer in question, was transferred after he allegedly asked a Muslim man, married to a Hindu woman, to convert to Hinduism in order to have his application for passport renewal approved. Mishra vehemently denied the charge while speaking to the media, but it was too late to save himself from being transferred.
As for the applicants, an inter-faith couple, they were immediately issued new passports soon after the ministry’s intervention.
The decision by the MEA did not go down well with fanatic elements within the BJP, who took to Swaraj’s Facebook page and began to post nasty and abusive comments against the minister while reviewing her page negatively. Such was the campaign that Swaraj’s page’s rating went down from 4.3 (out of 5) star to 1.4 star in just a few hours. According to an estimate, more than 30,000 reviews took place in a span of just a few hours.
One user, Dr Pankaj Pandey, taunted the minister while giving 1 star to the page and wrote, “Sushma Swaraj ji’s Facebook page down to 1.5 * from 4.3 * in a single day. That’s the right of expression. It’s actually the reminder government’s slogan ‘Appeasement for none, justice for all.” Another BJP supporter Sumit Gupta too taunted while giving one star to the page, “You too have been bitten by the insect called secularism Sushma ji?” Another user wrote that Swaraj did not deserve even 1 star. (See the comments screenshots below)
Faced with incessant trolling, the admin of Swaraj’s Facebook page had removed the review option from the union minister’s account.
Interestingly, trolling of one of Modi’s senior ministers by her own supporters has come just days after media reports said that BJP was reportedly hiring at least 2 lakh trained ‘social media experts’ to help party ahead of the next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
It’s not clear whether the ‘review attack’ that Swaraj experienced on Saturday with more than 30,000 posts (most giving her one star/poor rating) was one of the first surgical strikes against a seemingly secular BJP minister by the BJP’s digital warriors in preparation for the 2019 election campaign.