India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a hugely-followed figure on social media. The leader of the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP may be averse to press conferences, but he has built up a massive social media following across several platforms. So when PM Modi sent out a cryptic tweet hinting that he may quit social media this Sunday, his followers, critics, and opponents went berserk.
Social media went into a frenzy after PM Modi’s tweet. After all, he is the 18th most followed person on Twitter and the third-most-popular politician after former U.S. President Barack Obama and his successor Donald Trump. Modi’s Twitter following of more than 53 million allows him to communicate directly with the world given that he doesn’t address any press conferences.
On Facebook, PM Modi has more than 44 million followers, while his Instagram following is also impressive at over 35 million. So, giving up social media would have been a terrible idea for a leader who enjoys such massive online following. But PM Modi’s critics and opponents didn’t leave this opportunity to troll him.
Rahul Gandhi, one of PM Modi’s biggest opponents belonging to the Congress Party, sent out a tongue-in-cheek response to the former’s tweet.
Gandhi’s tweet came in the light of the ongoing riots and protests in Delhi that have claimed the lives of nearly 50 people . The city’s police – under the control of Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah – have been largely ineffective at quelling the violence.
It took a long time for PM Modi to appeal for peace in India’s capital even as his party members were busy inciting violence through hate speeches .
Gandhi was not the only one to take a dig at PM Narendra Modi. Well-known Indian politician Shashi Tharoor had a far more radical take on the repercussions of Modi’s tweet. He tweeted:
Other netizens also joined in as they didn’t want to miss this opportunity to troll PM Modi, with some accusing him of trying to divert attention from other critical issues plaguing the country.
At the same time, there were a few who had an inkling that he may not eventually quit.
In the end, it did turn out that PM Narendra Modi was indeed bluffing and pulled a fast one on social media users. He followed it up with a tweet clarifying his stand:
While millions of Modi followers would have heaved a sigh of relief at the PM’s decision, the trolling didn’t stop. He was accused of wasting time on social media gimmicks instead of focusing on actual issues such as the outbreak of the coronavirus strain Covid-19 that’s started rearing its head in India.
Meanwhile, PM Modi’s advertised hashtag – SheInspiresUs – is backfiring as people have started associating the same with women-led protests across the country or journalists critical of the Modi government.
Some even took a dig at PM Narendra Modi who is known for living away from his wife.
In all, the reactions to the PM’s latest social media gimmick have been quite entertaining. They have given netizens in India a much-needed break from the negativity arising out of coverage related to riots and communal tensions, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the problems on the ground still persist.