At the best of times, politics is serious business – and even more so in Jammu and Kashmir, where conflict has dominated the region’s history. On Wednesday, though, politics in the state took a farcical turn. Currently under governor’s rule, Jammu and Kashmir saw a bid for an elected government with the People’s Democratic Party, the National Conference and the Congress coming together in coalition.
This was, however, not to be. The governor Satya Pal Malik claimed that he had received no communication from Mehbooba Mufti, the president of the People’s Democratic Party, since it was a holiday and “no one was sitting next to the fax machine”.
In 2018, to claim to be out of contact since one is not next to one’s facsimile device is a bit quaint. Matters were, however, soon fast-forwarded to the current decade when Mehbooba Mufti, unable to reach the governor, posted her claim to office on Twitter.
This, as a number of people pointed was, was probably the first ever claim to form a government on social media.
Earlier in the day, Whatsapp, India’s most popular mobile messaging service, was bought into play. Sajad Lone, president of the People’s Conference, claimed support from the Bharatiya Janata Party and other MLAs and messaged his claim to the personal assistant of the governor.
Faced with the slightly farcical situation of a claim to office unable to be made since the governor was incommunicado, Kashmiri politicians took the most logical next step: they started making memes.
Omar Abdullah, head of the National Conference tweeted out a popular GIF of a printer and shredder working in tandem to parody the governor’s fax machine.
In turn, Mufti replied with the picture of a skeleton on a park bench. It had been a long wait.
Other memewallahs, on both sides, soon jumped in.
All of this excellent social media fun was, however, cut short as the governor dissolved the state Assembly late on Wednesday.
This is, of course, not the first time social media has replaced more traditional modes of communication when it comes to power politics. In 2016, as an army coup was launched against him, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan countered by using social media to mobilise his supporters. Even though the state broadcaster fell into rebel hands – once the key aim of any fledgling coup – Erdogan’s social media push was able to turn the tide for him and prevent a military takeover.