India has won. “Acche din aa rahe hain,” read the tweet, the most retweeted in India in 2014. For the ever-online PM, it was only fitting to declare victory on a social network. He went on to respond to world leaders’ congratulatory messages on Twitter.
Complete coverage: One year of Modi sarkar
A year on, his tweets in Chinese or Korean, the Weibo account, or a selfie with Li Keqiang are no thumb-stoppers but for the common man, the PM is accessible. Reason why a batch of nurses in Iraq tweeted to the PM’s account, asking to be rescued. The PM followed up.
Similarly, government portal mygov.in was launched last July asking citizens for ideas on governance issues. It has 8.9 lakh registrations. The Swachh Bharat logo was chosen from entries here. The campaign’s initial publicity relied on the Net with Bollywood stars and politicians nominating others to pick up the broom and clean up as they posted pictures doing the same.
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What really worked was when foreign minister Sushma Swaraj responded with alacrity on Twitter to people’s cribs — from being stuck in a conflict zone to losing a passport in a foreign land.
A New York Times piece called Modi India’s “social media politician” — and he is. The PM is active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest and Linked In, and on messaging service Viber. His Mann Ki Baat speeches are on SoundCloud. As PM, he added 12 million fans to his Facebook page; made over 900 posts from May 26, 2014 to May 13, 2015. He joined Instagram last year, with 4.6 lakh followers. His tweets are now SMSs, along with 15 state accounts. Everything’s cross-posted on narendramodi.in and pmindia.gov.in too. The PM is very much online.
Even his first controversy was digital, when the @PMOIndia Twitter account was put into an “archive” mode prior to a handover. “He stands out as his predecessor wasn’t communicative. The pendulum’s swung to the other extreme,” says BJD MP Baijayant Panda.
There’s no humour in the PM’s online life — it’s all work. But his desire to record every public moment has made him the butt of social media jokes. Buzzfeed, repository of all things viral, has found endless material in Modi’s digital blitz. Its India editor Rega Jha christened Namo “PM of Swag”, tongue firmly in cheek. If his monogrammed suit was a meme-maker’s delight, his visit to China’s terracotta warriors museum had jesters captioning his pictures with witty one-liners. Jha finds Modi the “most GIF-able, meme-able, re-tweetable person ever”. As it is “irreverent” to make fun of a PM, jokes on him become even more popular, she says. “It takes courage to poke fun at an entity so powerful. Without doubt, Modi’s win proved he’s one of India’s greatest shared interests,” says Jha.
But older posts have haunted. Modi’s tweet against a rail fare hike in UPA’s stint resurfaced when Namo’s government raised prices. “BJP must be realizing the adage ‘the Net never forgets’, and campaigning online comes with a sting in the tail,” says Nitin Pai, head of The Takshashila Institution.
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