That Narendra Modi’s first public statement to the world came through Twitter “India has won” and his first picture was a selfie with his mother, go to suggest that social media played a central role in Modi’s success. Even in his victory he logged on first to social media talking to his fans, followers and voters.
Narendra Modi’s social media presence makes him God-like according to this BJP worker. Pic/AFP
The digital drive was so well orchestrated that Modi’s team were ready with a new website, a congratulations victory — wall and ‘thank you for your support’ Twitter mentions for everyone who tweeted with #India272 and #CongratsNaMo.
So what did Modi do? At the outset he cashed in on a constituency online, that of youth, that of fence-sitters, who were absorbed in using social media to learn and understand politics. At 63, he had it figured it out what 20 somethings wanted. That many of them were going to be first time voters in a new pool as large as 800 million.
Importantly, he realised that the way to influence the youth was through the place where they spend most of their time, their timelines. And so intelligently, shrewdly and strategically Modi and his digital team found ways to appear on people’s timelines, led movements like India272 that opened the campaign front to common people by calling them to volunteer, got Modi to tweet pictures and powerful quotes and remain in the mindspace of youngsters.
What helped him along the way was the power engine of Twitter and Facebook and Google all of who in their bid to join the election bandwagon, ensured they expanded coverage and gave algorithmic benefits to those who used them extensively.
Philosophically, what propelled Modi’s online popularity was a central desire for change among the people of India. This was visible in posts and pins, in droves, as people expressed their disgust over corruption, scams, dynastic politics. So being a first mover on social media when added to the overall distrust in the UPA government just enhanced Modi’s online persona.
Modi’s social networking skills seemingly convinced his supporters and BJP’s potential voters that he could replicate the success of Gujarat across India. Shashi Shekhar, who manages India272 platform of the BJP shared in my book The Big Connect: Politics in Age of Social Media, that Modi used his massive following on the internet to build a parallel universe of thinking — a thinking that Modi concurred with.
‘Delhi’s Television studios have long ceased to reflect or represent the views of Indians across the length and breadth of the country. They are now merely an elitist echo chamber that have become disconnected from the real India.’
The online world has brought him support nonetheless. The proliferation of like-minded people belonging to the right- wing thinking and this includes economists, journalists, thinkers, authors —were able to take on Modi’s critics in an open space.
Additionally, there remain several business honchos and that includes Ratan Tata, many actors, and national personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Lata Mangeshkar, who have openly shown support for Modi or for Gujarat.
Modi’s Vibrant Gujarat, an elaborate business fair, was criticized for signing more agreements on paper than actually executing them. However, it still remains a magnet for the country’s top company owners who show up in big numbers for Modi’s support.
Modi also used new generation technology and kept innovating to push boundaries of how campaigns are run in today’s day and age. He put out his selfie on the day he voted on Twitter and asked his fans and supporters to share theirs. These were then put as a part of a mosaic image of Modi’s face where people who participated could go search their selfie.
Use of 3D technology and its consequent boost via social media allowed Modi to rally across the country and at the same time multiply its impact and reach. Numbers like 5000 rallies, three lakh kilometers of campaigning are bound to impress anyone.
But when packaged succinctly for a social media audience, they make for great retweets and shares. In the end Modi cracked the social media code using online media and technology to give what the majority was looking for, a connect and a message they understand and support. This only proves that in the new world, it’s not important to be just elected but also socially elected.
The writer is a journalist and author of the book: The Big Connect: Politics in the Age of Social Media