Modi’s ‘follow backs’ raise eyebrows

Twesh Mishra New Delhi | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on March 07, 2017

Supporters bewildered; following on Twitter is not endorsement, says BJP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the most popular leaders on social media in the world, but there have been some worries recently over the ‘follow back’ policy that the @narendramodi Twitter handle adopts.

The @narendramodi handle follows over 1,600 accounts, while US President Donald Trump, through his handle @realDonaldTrump, follows less than 50. A far more conservative number than that of his predecessor Barak Obama, who follows over 6.31 lakh accounts.

This raises pertinent questions on the follow back policies of global leaders. While Trump’s approach reflects a conscious preference, Obama’s doesn’t.

However, opinions are divided on Modi’s policy. What has set off the debate is that @narendramodi follows a number of Twitter accounts popularly referred to as ‘trolls’ — those that pose offensive, inflammatory tweets. This has left many wondering why the PM would ‘follow’ such trolls.

The ruling BJP’s social media supporters are among the most dismayed at Modi’s approach on Twitter.

Some allege it is largely dependent on the preferences of the BJP IT cell.

PM’s choice

Amit Malviya, who is in charge of the BJP’s national IT cell, has indicated that at least some of the people being followed by @narendramodi have been the choice of the PM himself. “The Prime Minister is an avid user of social media, he keeps himself abreast of various things that happen there. He himself looks through the medium whenever time permits and if there is something someone has said that catches his attention and he has found that interesting, he asks his team to review and put the person on the follow list,” he said.

He, however, was quick to clarify that a follow back from the @narendramodi handle does not reflect a prime ministerial endorsement. “The PM follows politicians of differing ideologies, does it mean that he endorses their political ideology? The answer is no. And the same logic applies to everybody that his handle may be following,” he said.

Meanwhile, the tweets under the hashtag #reformBJPITcell are growing. A section of BJP supporters have questioned Malviya’s role and called for his removal.

A chunk of Twitter handles questioning the BJP IT cell and seeking reforms in it are also followed by @narendramodi. Voice of Assam (@VoiceOfAxom) and Rita (@RitaG74) sought clarity on Modi’s follow back process. Similar tweets from other handles were deleted later.

“The BJP allows dissenting views in the party, this reflects on our democratic nature,” said Malviya, adding he has heard the concerns of party followers, and they have been addressed. Commenting on calls for his removal from the post, he said: “There were certain misplaced concerns and they have been addressed. We have an ongoing dialogue.”

The BJP’s supporters on Twitter were largely instrumental in driving the social media narrative in favour of the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. They have also been consistently toeing the party’s stand on various issues, including the Gurmeher Kaur episode.

Published on March 07, 2017
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