Wednesday, September 12, 2018

India's ruling party faces Twitter backlash over confusing graphic

By Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - As Indians' anger grows over record fuel prices, the ruling party is getting advice on social media to seek lessons in mathematics and graphic design after it posted a bar-chart graphic that showed fuel prices lower than in prior years. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing criticism for not doing enough to cut fuel taxes that account for more than a third of retail petrol and diesel prices, which have soared to record highs this month.

Twitter users on Tuesday derided Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the graphic, which showed the price of petrol in New Delhi, the capital, at 80.7 rupees a liter, while using an arrow showing a drop of 13 percent, rather than a rise, to compare it to a price of 71.4 rupees four years ago. (https://bit.ly/2N7rdCr)

Titled "Truth of Hike", the graphic included Modi's picture and used four bars to show petrol price rises since 2004, but represented the current, higher price with a smaller bar.

The post was retweeted 2,100 times, attracted 3,200 comments and figured on primetime news shows after it was posted late on Monday, becoming the butt of jokes on social media, with some users questioning how 80 rupees could be less than 70.

Amit Malviya, the chief of the BJP's information technology cell, said the graphic was not being interpreted correctly and was aimed only at showing that the 13 percent increase since 2014 was lower than in previous years.

"It may sound paradoxical, but that is what it is," Malviya told Reuters.

Twitter users were unconvinced.

Zaineb Hakim joked on the social network, "Based on this graph, you are all entitled to a full refund from the mathematics department of the school you graduated from, assuming you did attend one."

Another user, Jas Oberoi, wrote, "Modiji needs to spend taxpayers' money on a better infographic provider. This is outrageous," referring to the prime minister with a honorific suffix.

Past governments have usually cut fuel taxes when international oil prices shot up, but Modi's administration has so far blamed global factors, such as Turkey's economic crisis.

The fuel price hike has also furnished ammunition for the opposition Congress party to criticize Modi ahead of general elections next year. On Monday, protests against the high prices shut down many businesses, government offices and schools.

The Congress countered the BJP's graphic with its own, showing a crying Bollywood actor looking at the graphic and retweeting inverted versions of the BJP chart. (https://bit.ly/2oWx3rx)




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