See More on Facebook

Current affairs, Politics

Blip on Modi’s social media, communications radar

Has Modi’s social media policy backfired.

Written by

Updated: May 20, 2019

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempts to ‘humanise’ himself over the past 10 days or so seem to have boomeranged.

At least on social media.

For a politician who has championed the use of social media platforms and integrated them into his communications strategy to gain direct access to the people without the “filter” of intermediaries, that’s saying something. 

Modi refused to hold even a single Press conference through his five-year tenure as PM and keeping professional media at arm’s length. 

But he went on an interview spree in the past fortnight aimed at reaching out to voters in the last two phases of India’s weeks-long general election.

Informal, one-on-one interactions with leading television anchors and editors of major publications in which Modi shared personal anecdotes and took some ‘unscripted’ tough questions seemed like a great outreach idea for sure. 

But then he went and put his foot in it by self-admittedly:

  1. Telling the Indian Air Force top brass who were thinking of postponing the air strikes against terror camps in Pakistan February-end because of inclement, cloudy weather to go ahead anyway because the clouds would obscure detection of Indian fighter jets – making it apparent he hasn’t heard of modern radar technology.
  1. Claiming to have used a digital camera and email in 1987/88 long before they were in use and/or invented/available commercially.

The results, for a politician considered to be a master of communication, were not great. 

His comments were greeted with howls of derision, mocked mercilessly and the memes based on them went viral.

The ultimate player on social media got trolled relentlessly not just by opponents but even neutrals for his gaffes.

The Prime Minister’s Office could have clarified that the first comment was a joke (which obviously went wrong) and the second a slip of the tongue in terms of dates. 

But no such clarifications were forthcoming. 

The reason for the Prime Minister’s media blitz which resulted in the boo-boos was part of a strategy to target voters who may be feeling let down by the performance of his administration and were exercising their ballot in the last two phases of polling on 12 and 19 May. 

A total of 118 parliamentary seats (out of a total of 543) were at stake in these two phases and the constituencies that went to polls included many in the fiercely contested states of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

In both states, Modi is up against very formidable opposition.

But the reasons are just incidental and of limited interest – what is of interest is this newly discovered weakness in his communication strategy.

The Opposition insists the gaffes by Narendra Modi represent a character flaw and underline its online ‘Feku’ campaign against him – Feku, a pejorative term, translates roughly as ‘delusional bullshitter and peddler of fake news’.

But Modi remains undoubtedly the most popular politician in India and his team has not thought it necessary to issue clarifications hoping the row will die a natural death.

That may have been a miscalculation, even for a Teflon PM.

For, it did turn out to be more than just a 24-hour news cycle issue.

The Prime Minister’s well-crafted and relentlessly emphasised media image of being a modest, honest, self-made man who rose from humble beginnings to head the world’ largest democracy took a serious blow. 

A section of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is apprehensive that Modi slipping-up in the home stretch, as it were, may have given wings to the Opposition’s Feku narrative which is playing out strongest on social media and this could hurt them in the polls. 

But senior leaders and strategists are reasonably sanguine that any damage done can and has been repaired.

The world will know on 23 May when India’s election results are declared whether this was only, as is likely, a minor blip on the radar for Battleship Modi at the fag-end of a bruising war at the hustings.

A‘comms down’ scare for Team Modi it certainly was.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

About the Author:

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Current affairs, Politics

The transformation of Gokul Baskota

How Nepal’s communications minister went from being a fierce reporter to a hardline politician against free press. For Gokul Baskota, the last twelve months have been particularly busy. Since taking the helm of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which had been without a leader for several months before his appointment last June, Baskota has eagerly placed himself at the centre of a nonstop media storm, defending every controversial bill the government has tabled or passed—from the Medical Education Bill to the 

By The Kathmandu Post
June 25, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

Battle of Okinawa memorial ceremony attended by 5,100

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers a flower during a memorial ceremony to commemorate those who died in the Battle of Okinawa. The Okinawa prefectural government held on Sunday a memorial ceremony to commemorate those who died in the Battle of Okinawa, in the Peace Memorial Park in the Mabuni area of Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki participated in the event marking the 74th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa during the final stage of World War II. Abe and Tamaki each delivered an address to mourn the victims. About 5,100 people, including bereaved family members of the war dead, attended the ceremony, the first of the Reiwa era. In front of the park’s Cornerstone of Peace stone monuments on which the names of the war dead are inscribed, many people joined their hands in prayer. This yea

By The Japan News
June 24, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

Seventeen dead in Sihanoukville building collapse

The accident happened over the weekend. Rescue team recovered 17 corpses and at least 24 injured who were buried underneath the rubble of a building under construction which collapsed in Preah Sihanouk province. In an immediate response to the tragedy, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a donation of 40 million riel to each of the dead victims’ families. Speaking to The Post early on Sunday, Preah Sihanoukville provincial governor Yun Min said: “Up to 8:30am, we have recorded a death toll of 17 persons. “Another 24 have suffered light to serious injuries and are receiving treatment.” The seven-storey building which is under construction collapsed at about 4 am on June 22. Since then, rescue teams have been working round-the-clock in search and recovery operations as they worked against time to save as many of the victim as possible. Families of the victims were

By Phnom Phen Post
June 24, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

Hong Kong set for more protest

Hong Kong gears up for more protests over extradition Bill as hundreds gather. Protesters began streaming in towards the Hong Kong government headquarters early Friday (June 21) morning, joining others who had camped there overnight after the administration ignored a deadline the previous day to withdraw a controversial extradition Bill. They have vowed to escalate matters on Friday and cut off access to the roads surrounding the government central offices in Tamar, Admiralty until their list of demands are met. These include a complete withdrawal of the proposed law – plans for which have been indefinitely suspended – for the June 12 protests not to be categorised as a riot, for everyone arrested

By The Straits Times
June 21, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

OPINION: What Asia’s election season tells us

Elections have wrapped up from Pakistan to the Philippines. In the first half of this year, four Asian giants went to the polls. Up to one billion voters were involved, all within a few weeks of one another. Team Ceritalah was on the ground in Thailand, Philippines, India and Indonesia. In Eluru in April, some two hours northeast of Amravati, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, we discovered a city pulsating with people. It was also mind-blowingly hot: some 42 degrees with music blaring out of loudspeakers as crowds waited for a candidate’s arrival. By contrast, when Team Ceritalah were in the Thai city of Phitsanulok in February, the mood was subdued and calm. Most people knew who they’d be voting for. Besides, everyone understood that the polls were a farce Back in April and just a handful of days before voting, Team Ceritalah also joined the hordes at Jakarta’s main stadium – Gelora

By The Star
June 19, 2019

Current affairs, Politics

Hong Kong protests rattle Taiwan’s political scene

Hong Kong’s protest has caused significant changes politically in Taiwan. TAIPEI (The China Post) — Han Kuo-yu’s explicit contradiction of Beijing’s “one country, two systems” took everyone by surprise over the latest weekend. This was his most forceful rejection of the political framework aimed at ousting the Beijing-friendly image depicted by his rivals. True to his alleged pro-unification stance – he recently met with the directors of Beijing’s liaison offices in Hong Kong and Macau as well as the Communist Party chief in China, he first said: “I don’t know about the Hong Kong protests. I don’t know, I’m not aware.” The controversial comment not only had a devasting effect on his ratings but also caused some cracks in his well-polished public discourse. He was one step behind President Tsai Ing-wen who deftly declared her support of the anti-extradition protestors. “We

By Asia News Network
June 19, 2019