Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet on Monday night echoes more than what’s said. Here’s a look at the man and his social media politics
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shook the twitter-verse with his “thinking of giving up my social media” tweet on Monday night. The tweet at first sight almost sounded kiddish – like a twenty-something announcing their exit from social media post break up (we all have seen it, haven’t we.)
But this is the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy. Surely, the meaning echoes louder than what’s being tweeted.
Modi is a mysterious man, infamously criticised for holding his silence in the most controversial times. His social media accounts and radio show Mann Ki Baat are the only two ways his citizens can directly reach him. For dissenting Indians, social media is the only channel.
PM Modi Is A Twitter-addict since 2009
Modi joined Twitter in 2009, a couple of years before his debut and rise as face of the BJP. In those days, most Indian politicians were unaware of the power of social media platforms. But Modi understood the value of words too well. He mostly tweeted thoughts and quotes from religious savants like Swami Vivekananda. In time, he had a mass following of young, old and troll alike.
Currently, Modi’s twitter followership rivals that of world leaders. He has more followers than most leaders amassing 53.3 million followers on Twitter, 44 million on Facebook, 35.2 million on Instagram and 4.5 million on YouTube. Only Trump, a showman of similar traits has a more global following that Modi among the world’s politicos.
PM Modi’s Strategy Of Silence
By far the strategy that brand Modi follows is simple – do no press conference, release no official press statements, stay silent. And look elite – someone who can’t be reached but can engage with their audience directly on public platforms.
The best example of this social media strategy be business tycoon Ratan Tata who when posts occasionally or humbly replies to a comment; sends internet into a frenzy for days. The strategy is quite apt for him given he is not an avid social media user.
But Modi is. Social media has played an important part in Modi’s political campaigns. It’s been a platform where Mr Prime Minster has been criticised, condemned and praised openly.
Criticism Abound Annoys The PM
Very recently, Prime Minister was criticised for turning the other way when communal violence clenched Delhi. Modi instead chose to promote his new found friendship with Donald Trump. Meanwhile, his party leaders continued to spew hate online. India’s PM as well as his deputy, HM Amit Shah, kept mum.
Social media platforms are regularly under scrutiny in India over hate speech and spread of misinformation. Dissenters against policies often draw the wrath of the government and are charged for their comments on social media with cases of sedition. But many leaders from Modi’s party (some also holding cabinet portfolios) were publicly called out for divisive comments and enticing violence in Delhi. But they are never under the threat of retribution.
Mystery Man or Master of Distractions?
Last night, Memeber of Parliament, Shahshi Tharoor replied to PM’s tweet saying, “The PM’s abrupt announcement has led many to worry whether it’s a prelude to banning these services throughout the country too.”
This morning #NoSir, #IWillAlsoLeaveTwitter and #NoModiNoTwitter are trending. So maybe Tharoor’s speculation is true. Or maybe it’s another push to stay in ‘trend’ for a while.
Or maybe… just maybe, for once when I was about to cut him some slack and believed he is finally tired of all the social media trolling and negativity and is just cutting down on the screen time – He posts this
Well, this woman rests her case.