NEW DELHI: PM
, the biggest social media draw in India and one of the biggest in the world, sprang a surprise with this tweet at 8.56pm on Monday: “This Sunday, thinking of giving up my social media accounts on Facebook,
. Will keep you posted.”
This Sunday, thinking of giving up my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube. Will keep you all posted.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1583162818000
The post sparked intense speculation as to why Modi, who’s perfected the art of communicating directly with people – almost bypassing or ‘disintermediating’ traditional mainstream media – should be contemplating such a step.
The absence of an official explanation spawned an instant industry of theories.
functionaries offered some likely reasons like Modi going for a ‘digital detox’ or being upset about spread of “hatred, fake news and rumours” on social media platforms fuelling Delhi’s communal riots and hurting India’s image.
There was lack of clarity as to whether the disengagement would be limited to Sunday (International Women’s Day), or permanent — with some commentators suggesting the accounts may be run by women that day. There was also speculation that the government or an organisation linked to it may launch a platform that’s not “biased” against right-wing or pro-BJP handles.
Unclear if PM Modi will stop using NaMo app, PMO a/c tooPM Modi has a huge presence on social media with 53.3 million followers on Twitter, 44.5 million on Facebook, 35.2 million on Instagram, and 4.5 million Youtube subscribers. The PM’s tweet and posts on other social media, however, made no mention of the NaMo App which is also an important channel for him to communicate with the wider public. Nor was there any mention of the official PMO India account, which has over 32 million followers on Twitter, and is expected to continue.
Modi also posted the same message on his Facebook page around 9.30 pm and, a few minutes later, on Instagram. By around 10.30 pm, his tweet had around 53,000 comments, 27,000 retweets and 81,000 likes. Congress MP
, who has 12.2 million followers, reacted by saying, “Give up hatred, not social media accounts.”
The PM’s intent, if he follows through, could be read as an act of deliberate withdrawal from the cacophony of social media and an unstated appeal for calm in a heated and divisive environment, according to people within the government.
A minister had pointed out that several social media handles were uninhibitedly circulating rumours and unverified claims about the riots and protests linked to CAA, NRC and NPR.
The government and the BJP have been facing heat in India and abroad over the riots with reports accusing them of promoting majoritarianism and targeting Muslims with hate speech.
However, the backdrop makes Modi’s move seem even more intriguing, considering that under his leadership, BJP has aggressively and innovatively used social media to push its narrative and neutralise what it sees as the ‘liberal/secular’ bias of the mainstream media.