WASHINGTON: That our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a keen user of social media is known globally.
A recent study by a US university professor shows his evolution as a social media maverick.
Today, the PM is a social media wizard, asserts Joyojeet Pal, Assistant Professor, UMich’s School of Information, in a recently published study titled Banalities Turned Viral: Narendra Modi and the Political Tweet.
Pal, a University of Michigan scholar, observes that the PM has evolved significantly from the time he used social media as a chief minister; taking advantage of the video feature on Twitter almost as soon as it as available. He also gives the appearance of composing messages himself unlike Obama whose messages make it evident it is being managed on his behalf.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is turning out to be a savvy social media superstar whose online postings, banal on the face of it, are reshaping his public image as a technology-capable leader aligned with the aspirations of a new Indian modernity,” Pal writes in his paper.
“The capture of social media allowed Modi to cater to aspirations for a modernity that mirrored blueprints from the global North. The BJP no longer stood only for older Hindu men in saffron. Instead, here was a man who could take a selfie with one hand and use the other for a trident when needed," Pal notes in the paper, and adds, that for the first time in its history, the BJP leader emerged as more central to the public discourse than the ideology he stands for.
A report in Times of India quotes Pal as saying that the gentle tenor of Modi's Twitter banalities on global events, carefully crafted and global public thank-you notes, and consistent reinforcement of national development themes suggest no shadow of a man who was once-rejected by the international community and was banned from entering the United States for gross violations of religious freedom.
"The young demographic of Twitter users in India are from a generation that has grown up with little memory of the 2002 riots. The enduring memory of Modi for them will be the political maverick who talks directly to the people, whether through Twitter or via his popular radio and YouTube missives called MannkiBaat. For a party long branded as appealing to constituents of traditional Hindutva values, the use of technology in the party's re-imagination has been particularly salient," Pal writes.
If he keeps it up, Pal says, Modi will overtake Kim Kardashian on Twitter, "and we won't be able to say that we didn't see that coming."