Long before Sushma Swaraj and Manish Tewari had discovered the abundant scope of mudslinging offered by Twitter, it was Congress minister Shashi Tharoor who ventured into the uncharted terrain of social media. His involvement with the micr0-blogging site and his teething troubles with it, also cost him a ministerial position in 2009.
Tharoor, however, didn't snap ties with Twitter. Consequently, he turned out to be the more popular Congress leader on social media - he tweets regularly, retweets others, posts pictures and does pretty much everything that any other Twitter user does on the site. When the furor over his 'cattle class' tweet was taking the country and the Congress by storm, not much had been heard about Narendra Modi's Twitter forays. Things have changed a lot in four years. With the social media winds blowing his way, Narendra Modi has now zoomed past Shashi Tharoor in the number of followers he has on Twitter.
When this report was being filed, Modi had 18,24,639 followers and Tharoor had 18,21,469 followers.
The news doesn't come as a surprise given Narendra Modi's social media campaign is talked about a lot and the Gujarat CM makes no bones about promoting himself and his party on social media. Not only does the party's IT cells throw the weight of their activities behind Modi's social media image, recently a Times of India article reported that Modi has enlisted the help of Bangalore-based IT entrepreneurs Rajesh Jain and BG Mahesh to propel his social media campaign.
The report said that the duo was putting together a 100-member team to design Modi's online campaign in the run up to the 2014 polls. Modi's tweets, as one might have noticed, are akin to carefully worded statements on political issues, greetings during religious festivals and felicitations addressed to people.
They have none of the flair for sarcasm and irony that the Gujarat CM's personality, as displayed during public speeches, seems to have. While Modi might tread cautiously on social media, he plays to the galleries with flourish. The first of his Google hangouts saw him share anecdotes about his life and got him talking about fitness and fashion. He also tried to speak to several participants in their own mother tongues.
Tharoor on the other hand has a history of being a bit of a loose canon on social media. Also, in the political hierarchy, Tharoor is not a personality who attracts a lot of attention. He doesn't hold a top portfolio in the UPA government and despite his charm and oratory skills, he lags way behind Modi in political importance. The fact that Modi took over him is therefore hardly shocking. However, this is a development that should worry the Congress. Tharoor being their only popular leader on social media, this spells bad news for their future in internet discussions. A Digvijaya Singh or Manish Tewari is nowhere close to Tharoor's popularity quotient on Twitter. Unless the Congress gets is act back together, on social media at least, Modi is bound to bulldoze them on Twitter and all other cyber forums.