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Punjab’s next CM? Sidhu’s social media team is working hard to create that image


File photo of Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu | PTI


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Chandigarh: In the ongoing battle for supremacy between Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, the latter is working hard on building a larger-than-life image by projecting himself not just as the party chief but as the potential CM.

Sidhu, who has had a successful stint as a cricket commentator and a judge of comedy shows on TV, is using showman skills to present himself as a serious, independent, honest and courageous politician. But that is not all. He is also using his presence on social media to hit out at Amarinder through a constant stream of videos and tweets. Interestingly, a major portion of his social media campaign is directed at attacking Amarinder and not Opposition leaders.

Sidhu’s social media team works round the clock, putting up Facebook posts and YouTube videos of his meetings and speeches.

The focus is not only on what Sidhu says but also on optics — greeting crowds and partymen, stop by at a dhaba for tea, or an unplanned visit to a gurdwara. Everything is captured by his social media team that travels with him.

 

His clothes are carefully chosen and videos are shot like films. Drone cameras are used for aerial shots and several in-house cameramen capture him walking, smiling, shaking hands, and talking.

Experts say such videos and social media posts are being put up to portray him as a statesman.

“Soft or rousing music is superimposed on these videos aimed at making Sidhu look like larger than life, the great statesman who will save Punjab. The focus of this entire image-building project is obvious — his supporters should see in him Punjab’s next chief minister,” says Dr Kanwalpreet Kaur, a Chandigarh-based political science expert.

Communication experts point out that there has been a marked change in Sidhu’s image-building campaign before and after he became the party president.

“Sidhu was focused on showing that he is a lone ranger who is standing up for the welfare of Punjab. But his style has always been jaded. Almost every video of his, whether he was talking about the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib or the farmers protest, was replete with oft-repeated Urdu couplets, pseudo aggression, unnecessary flamboyance and barely veiled ambition. His entire performance appears so script-driven that Sidhu cannot present himself as an organic politician who can sense the pulse of the people,” says veteran journalist Sarabjit Pandher.


Also read: The 5 Congress high command tasks Punjab CM Amarinder Singh could struggle to complete


Social media presence, attack on Amarinder

After more than a year of self-imposed exile following his resignation from the Amarinder Singh cabinet in July 2019, Sidhu resurfaced on social media last year, and launched a YouTube channel “Jittega Punjab”. In his first video on the channel, Sidhu said he has come out of the “phase of introspection” and promised to return power to the people of Punjab.

The channel was aimed at projecting himself as an independent voice in Punjab politics. The majority of his earlier videos were titled ‘Sidhu’s stand’ in which he expressed his opinion on various issues.

Sidhu put together a team under Smit, son of his old friend Dhanwant Singh, who is a former Dhuri MLA. Smit was made the “chief administrator” of the YouTube channel. Ever since Smit handles Sidhu’s social media campaigns and interviews.

Social media experts say Sidhu’s relationship with the press has also drastically changed.

Sidhu has also become averse to answering counter questions face-to-face. In one of the interviews with a leading English newspaper, his team recorded the entire video but put out only portions of it on his social media accounts.

“Social media campaigns are largely monologues, a one-way flow of information where whatever you want to show you push it through your social media platforms. At the same time, the social media offerings are dependent on traditional media for amplification. So it is not strictly a direct contact or a one-step interaction with your audience. Secondly, social media caters to a very minute section of the audience even while it might seem that with huge following you are connecting to everyone,” says Prof (Dr) Archana R. Singh of the School of Communication Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh.

Apart from Facebook and YouTube where Sidhu has 16.6 lakh and 105k followers, respectively, his tweets also make headlines, mostly for his attack on Amarinder.

Sidhu has tweeted several video clips of Amarinder’s interviews, accusing the CM of not fulfilling his 2017 election promises.


 

His social media team replies to counterattacks to ensure Sidhu has the last word.

Also read: Sidhu in soup as Amarinder slams his advisors for ‘anti-national’ Kashmir-Pakistan comments


 

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