India’s most popular social media presence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, created a flutter when he announced he was giving up his social media accounts, only to say a day later that he was handing over the mic to women to share inspiring stories for International Women’s Day.
Mr Modi, among the world’s most-followed leaders on social media platforms, set off shock waves with his first announcement on Monday. “This Sunday, thinking of giving up my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube. Will keep you all posted,” he tweeted. The tweet had more than 18.5 million likes by yesterday evening.
Some speculated that Mr Modi, a nationalist leader who has launched programmes like Make In India to push Indian manufacturing, would debut on a new Indian social media site.
The reaction was strongest among his supporters, who trended hashtags from #NoSir to #IWillAlsoLeaveTwitter and #NoModiNoTwitter on Twitter.
Some 24 hours after his tweet, Mr Modi revealed it was to be a one-day hiatus for International Women’s Day. “This Women’s Day, I will give away my social media accounts to women whose life & work inspire us. This will help them ignite motivation in millions. Are you such a woman or do you know such inspiring women? Share such stories using #SheInspiresUs,” he tweeted, announcing that women would be chosen to post from his accounts.
Mr Modi returned to power last May for a second term. He rarely gives interviews and instead uses social media platforms to reach out directly to people.
Last year, US-based marketing analytics firm SEMrush said Mr Modi was the second-most followed leader on social media, after former US president Barack Obama, who has 111 million followers on various platforms. Mr Modi has 53.3 million Twitter followers and 35.2 million Instagram followers. US President Donald Trump has 73.3 million followers on Twitter.
Some are critical of the media focus on Mr Modi’s announcement when India is seeing challenges from communal tensions and riots, a floundering economy and the coronavirus threat. India now has six coronavirus cases.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked Mr Modi to focus on the coronavirus threat and shared a video of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressing the nation on Feb 8. PM Lee assured Singaporeans that the country was better prepared due to its experience with Sars.
Still, Mr Modi yesterday asked people not to panic, tweeting that the government is working “to contain any possible outbreak”.