Politics as Calling: Sachin Sawant, a 'Warrior of Wits'

Now an established face in the state’s politics, Sachin Sawant blames the BJP for lowering the bar and normalising below-the-belt hits

Politics as Calling: Sachin Sawant, a 'Warrior of Wits'

Gautam S Mengle

No one was surprised when BJP leader Kirit Somaiya, known for his unrelenting attacks on the MVA government, announced on Twitter that he would be in Nanded on Tuesday. It was even less of a surprise when Indian National Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant responded by tweeting, “Somaiyaji, I believe you are coming to Nanded. I am already here. Welcome to Nanded.

Nanded and Latur districts are having by-elections this month. With battlelines clearly drawn between the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), every vote counts and no effort is being spared by either side to court voters or to trade barbs.

A week ago, media reports claimed he had relinquished the position of the party’s national spokesperson that he has held for 10 years. Some reports suggested he was asked to give others a chance while others claimed he had voluntarily asked for permission to give up his position. Sawant himself declined to discuss the issue, only saying that he had asked to be relieved.

Those who know Sawant say he does not miss a single opportunity to hit back at the BJP. His social media feed bear this out. He has led from the front in the battle of wits with the BJP, countering false narratives and responding to trolls. It therefore was no surprise when he was asked to go to Nanded and Latur first, and worry about his new role later.

His father was in the Congress and his thinking and morals were shaped by the party from a very young age, he recalls. In college, even as he was earning his Bachelor’s degree in Electronics, he joined the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) and from there to being an office bearer of the Youth Congress was but a small step. He went on to serve as the General Secretary of the organisation.

Sawant’s first big break, however, came in 2007, when Rahul Gandhi was looking for volunteers to work with him in Amethi. Sawant was one of the five volunteers chosen out of 200 candidates from all over the country. From then on, there was no looking back, as Sawant went on to become the National Training In-Charge, the General Secretary of the Mumbai Congress and finally the national spokesperson of the party in 2011.

When three men, including two Hindu sadhus, were lynched to death by a mob of over 100 villagers from a small village in Palghar, BJP was quick to give a communal twist to the incident. This, despite the police and the state government repeatedly stating that the deceased and the accused both belonged to the same religion. Even as the police made over 100 arrests in a matter of days, senior BJP leaders were seen trending hashtags on Twitter that fuelled a massive disinformation campaign.

It was left to Sawant to point out that residents of the village, from its sarpanch downwards, were BJP workers. The revelation was a major embarrasment for the BJP leadership and supporters. The controversy quickly died down.

Similarly, when former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his wife Amruta released their much-discussed album ‘River Anthem’, Sawant raised a red flag, asking whether serving public servants like the Mumbai Police Commissioner and the Municipal Commissioner were allowed to sing and dance for a video shoot.

“Over the last ten years, I have exposed lies of the BJP, be it the loan waivers, the Jalyukta Shivar scheme, the Chikki scam, lies spread by Babanrao Lonikar and Girish Mahajan and so many others,” Sawant recalls.

The thankless job involves being at the receiving end of incessant and vicious trolling from people who take offence to his attacks on the BJP. “We must realise that it is the BJP which has lowered the bar, and normalised muzzling the opposition, strangling democracy and terrorising detractors,” he says. Somebody has to respond in kind, he feels.

“I live by the same principles in both my personal and professional lives. My job is to change the mindset of the people and help them see the truth,” he says.

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