Little did Dhananjai Singh realise while creating his Facebook page back in 2012 that it would result in placing him amongst the state’s most widely-followed youth icons, with an online entourage of 8,00,000 and counting. Present-day heir of the erstwhile state of Khimsar, Dhananjai reclaims his stake as a modern-day democrat by purposefully seizing the digital imperative of his time with a carefully-cultivated technological prudence. In its fourth edition, Rajputana Collective converses with Dhananjai Singh on the role played by digitalisation in furthering an accountable model of democracy and in our collective realisation of A New India.
In his opening lines, Dhananjai eloquently describes his broader outlook vis-a-vis present-day contingencies that face the Indian democracy. He says, “apart from being one of the fastest-growing economies of the world, we’re also one of the youngest vote banks, with around 65% of our voters belonging to age brackets below 30. I feel it is extremely important for the youth of our country to take an active part in politics and to make contributions towards national development. This is especially vital since as citizens we are used to passing the buck when we experience lapses instead of finding incentives to direct change. My main aim is to connect with my fellow-citizens at a grass-roots level and to help inspire others to contribute towards a more active and aware polity; and the realisation of a New India.”
As a stakeholder in the world’s largest and youngest democracy, Dhananjai Singh makes no mistakes in his assessment of the importance of India’s youth vote bank and the endless possibilities that await it at the present moment. He identifies the unmissable potential that lies in citizen awareness and grass-roots activism, which, in his view can be effectively tapped by enhancing digital connectivity amongst the masses. With technological mediums becoming more accessible and affordable for the common citizen than ever before, it is Dhananjai’s sincere belief that digital communication platforms of social media provide the most potent mediums of garnering greater political inclusions towards collective development. Hence, in his sincere bid to generate greater awareness and political change at a grass-roots level, Dhananjai deployed the zeitgeist of present-day digital communication in the form of online networking platforms.
Interestingly, as his testimony will soon illustrate, Dhananjai’s motives of digital networking made beginnings that were too humble to predict their own outcomes. “At the time when I entered the sphere of active politics in 2012, parts of rural India were still relatively untouched by social media platforms such as Facebook. I had a personal profile, wherein the friends limit is upto 5,000 users and hence, one can’t add friends beyond this number. As I’d make my political excursions, people began complaining that I wasn’t responding to their friend requests on social media. I was worried about offending their gestures of goodwill and didn’t know of an adequate solution. It was around the same time that a member from my office suggested the culmination of a Facebook page, which enabled one to reach out to users exceeding the current limit. I gradually learned more about it and created my Facebook page, and in no time, my following grew leaps and bounds beyond my own expectations. I was genuinely surprised about the extent and pace at which one could influence people even in the remotest of rural areas by just being connected to them with a gadget”, he elaborates.
It is also important to note that Dhananjai’s motivation to incept dispersed connections
via social media were devoid of any commercial inclinations. He wasn’t focusing on the numerics of his initial following and was simply looking for a way to stay seamlessly connected with the people that he interacted with on the field. Over time, the quantitative enhancement of his connectivity with the masses led to Dhananjai realising the tremendous power that lay a nationwide access to social media. “Platforms like Facebook have provided an online platform for our citizens to voice their aspirations while also venting out their frustrations and anger. All social media users are online reporters today. Everybody in the 21st century is an online journalist with a very powerful tool known as social media”, he adds. Hence, in the individual and collective realisation of one’s capacity as an agent of socio-political action, he hopes to maintain a responsible and development-oriented Facebook handle that can help generate greater awareness and inspire change. By maintaining spontaneous and interactive channels of communication via Facebook, Dhananjai responsibly provides his followers an accessible forum to voice out their grievances while also deriving political awareness. A practical example of his social media interaction would include timely posts, commentaries and updates with reference to ongoing issues at a macroscopic as well as microscopic level. In addition to generating this primary content, Dhananjai remains equally involved in the secondary communicative process as well, such as the interaction of subsequent comments that result in the circulation of such posts. Hence, discussion forums and information redressals upheld in a centralising fashion wherein Dhananjai can directly ensure responsiveness, transparency and user-accountability.
When asked about his inspirations that led him to contribute towards the nation’s socio-political development, Dhananjai refers to the iconic Atal Bihari Vajpayee in times of smaller political malices and lesser cross-party vengeance. While speaking of the ex-Prime Minister of India, he attributes Vajpayee’s unparalleled greatness to his straight forwardness, honesty and an exemplary set of communication skills, which he believes jointly constitute the key ideals that make a distinguished statesman, politician and a democratic citizen in general.
According to Dhananjai, these very prized virtues can continue to actively conduct one’s sociopolitical participation in renewed measures through a digital enhancement of sorts. In other words, despite the increasing complexities of our times, Dhananjai believes in conducting the virtues of accountability and transparency through a judicious use of technology and digital communication. In direct reference to this possibility, he says, “if you look at the Indian system today, everybody is interested in passing on their responsibility and blame to somebody else. We lack transparency and straight-forwardness. This gap in accountability is further exacerbated by a disjunct with the grassroots, which form the crux of our very political system. Hence, these distances can be bridged by the sensible use of social media platforms that are premised upon direct communication and an unparalleled user-outreach.”
Sure, the excesses of digitalisation herald challenges of their own. Dhananjai acknowledges common issues such as fake news and public defamation amongst several others, and emphasises on the superseding duty of each online user to conduct themselves with utmost responsibility and awareness. He also makes a sincere plea requesting his fellows on social media to abstain from generating or contributing to content that deliberates animosity and disharmony at the cost of progressive change. To summarise, an increased sphere of technological possibilities bring with them a set of equally important ethical considerations, which Dhananjai emphasises as being vital to the optimum functioning of digital communities.
Just five years into his sustained sociopolitical interactions through social media, Dhananjai’s amassed following illustrates the sheer power and magnitude held by digital communications today, only to gain a steadier rise with time. It also opens up one’s imagination to the unending possibilities that can be realised by convenient digital action. In Dhananjai’s case, his vision of a New India encapsulates an India where “ every child goes to school, where every citizen has access to adequate healthcare, running water, electricity and improved roads, where every youth person’s potential is successfully actualised with an abundance of opportunities and where the shackles of the caste system have been broken to enable a discrimination-free democracy.” For the reader who has closely read his feature or followed his activities on Facebook, s/he can easily ascertain the subtle yet impactful ways in which Dhananjai pursues his vision, one post and comment at a time, thereby enriching hundreds and thousands of people that have the occasional pleasure of his company; and the unbridled privilege of interacting with his virtual grace at times when they seek it the most.
Rajputana Collective salutes his efforts and wishes him all the very best in his upcoming endeavours to enrich India’s grass-roots with greater activism and incentive to change.