When Sushma had her share of trolling on Twitter

Sushma Swaraj. PTI file photo

Twitterati often cheered for Sushma Swaraj whom any Indian in distress overseas always found just a tweet away and always ready to help.
But even she once had her share of abuse on Twitter – mostly from rabid right-wingers.

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It was in June-July, 2018. Swaraj – then External Affairs Minister – acted on a complaint she received from Tanvi Seth and her husband Mohammed Anas Siddiqui of Lucknow. The Hindu-Muslim couple had alleged that an official at the Regional Passport Office in Lucknow had harassed them and raised questions about their interfaith marriage when they had gone to apply for the passport for Tanvi.

The Ministry of External Affairs intervened and not only got the passport issued to Tanvi, but also acted against the official.

This prompted right-wingers to target Swaraj on Twitter. She suffered trolling for several days – including by people, who claimed that they had once been her admirers, but ceased to be so after she got her ministry acted on the complaint of the couple.  

Some of the netizens accused Swaraj of being biased as well as of appeasing a particular community. Some even demanded that she should resign as External Affairs Minister. A user even went to the extent of suggesting that she got the MEA act against the passport officer because she had got an “Islamic Kidney” – apparently referring to the kidney transplant she had undergone in 2016.

Swaraj’s response to the trolls was rather calm and polite. “In a democracy, difference of opinion is but natural. Please do criticize, but not in foul language. Criticism in decent language is always more effective,” she tweeted.

She liked some of the abusive tweets so that others could take note. She even asked for a poll on Twitter. A shocking 43% of the users approved the trolls.

Even as she suffered trolling, none from her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came out to stand by her for several days. Finally, her colleagues in Union Cabinet, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, tweeted calling the abusive comments against her as “unfortunate”. She, however, received support from people on the other side of the political divide – like Omar Abdullah of National Conference and Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party – apart from many others who thought Tanvi and Anas should not have been harassed.

Her husband Swaraj Kaushal too stood by her. He responded to an abusive tweet with an emotional post – narrating how his wife had spent almost a year in the hospital taking care of his ailing mother instead of appointing someone else to look after her.

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