In Karnataka, a model for social media smear

Image illustration by Prathap Ravishankar

It’s 2.30 in the afternoon on April 4. A political rally by Karnataka Chief Minister’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy is about to take place in Mandya’s Thimmakoppalu, a village about 120 km from the state capital.

Sitting outside the house with his grandmother and a dog in tow, 22-year-old Abhishek TD, a farmer’s son, browses videos on his smartphone. He’s politically active on social media platforms, but shows no interest in Nikhil’s rally. Even as Nikhil’s election caravan passes his street, his eyes remain hooked to his smartphone where troll videos of the young politician stream.

While the entire state watches the Mandya Lok Sabha constituency in anticipation, where the Janata Dal (Secular) candidate Nikhil contests against independent candidate Sumalatha Ambareesh, it’s a done deal for Abhishek. He has made up his mind on who to vote for. In fact, his support to actor Sumalatha is so strong that his WhatsApp profile picture is one that seeks votes for her.

Ask him why and he says it’s simple, showing a couple of memes that mock Nikhil. “Everybody makes fun of him (Nikhil) and trolls him. Why would I vote for a…joker?” he asks with a laugh. Abhishek consumes mobile data to watch videos on YouTube, TikTok and WhatsApp in his free time.

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