Speaking at his farewell function on 23 July, 2017, President Pranab Mukherjee said: "With passion and energy, he is driving transformational changes in the country. I will carry with me fond memories of our association and his warm and courteous behaviour”.
The man he was speaking about is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This compliment for Modi was coming from the highest office in the country and by a man who, before he assumed the office of president, had spent his entire political life in a party starkly opposed to that of Modi.
This ability of Modi to build a personal bond with almost everyone he interacts with is perhaps one of his most defining features. People listen to him, interact with him, get inspired by him, fervently share his messages among themselves, many even want to emulate him and many more want to learn from him. That this is true not just at the Indian level but at global stage has been once again reaffirmed by the “The World Leaders on Facebook” study, which was conducted by Burson Cohn & Wolfe and released on Twiplomacy on 2 May, 2018.
The study found that Modi is the most popular world leader on Facebook, with 43 million likes on his personal page, almost more than double the likes of the next popular leader: US president Donald Trump. The photo that Modi shared of him praying at the 11th Century Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar is the most popular picture shared by a world leader on Facebook in 2017 with 1.2 million interactions. In fact, the five most-liked pictures in 2017 were all posted by Modi, including a picture of him receiving a bicycle from Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.
Modi is second just to Trump in the most number of interactions on Facebook in 2017, with 113.6 million interactions. Admittedly, Trump posts almost twice as much as Modi on Facebook. A 44-second video of Modi interacting on a beach with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the third most watched Facebook live video of 2017. In the list of world leaders liked by other world leaders on Facebook, Modi is the only leader to feature in the top 10, rest all being institutional pages such as the White House page.
So, what makes Modi tick with people, in real life as well on social media? Without question it is the credibility that he has built over decades. There is nothing that Modi does which is half-hearted, or just because it is the cool thing to do or because others are doing so he may also join the bandwagon. There is an innate sense of deep seated conviction in every action of Modi.
He was the first Indian leader to realise the value of social media and its ability to democratise public discourse. Long before other leaders were forced into joining social media lest they face irrelevance in an increasingly young and connected India, Modi joined Twitter and Facebook because he believed in the value of direct communication between the people and political leaders. The power of technology, to give an equal voice to every Indian was first recognised by Modi many years before he became a contender for national voice.
Once Modi became prime minister, among the very first initiatives he launched in 2014 was MyGov, which is now the world’s biggest participative governance platform of its kind. Modi beat others not just in embracing new emerging mediums of communication. He showed them how to put even old media to good use as well, referring to good old All India Radio.
In October 2014, he started his monthly radio dialogue with people, which has evolved into a people’s ‘Mann ki Baat’. In mid-2015, while other leaders were playing catch up on social media, Modi launched the Narendra Modi mobile app, which is now the most downloaded mobile app of any global leader. The power of the app can be seen in the way he has been utilising it to directly communicate with workers of his party across the country.
Looked at from a shallow perspective, one could surmise that it is merely his communication or oratory skills that make Modi so popular. But what many of his critics miss is the core ingredient that goes into making his communication trustworthy. That trust is generated by his credibility built over decades.
If Modi says he would never compromise against corruption, people believe him because these words are matched by actions of more than three decades in political life. If Modi says that all his efforts are directed at enhancing the ‘ease of living’ of ordinary Indians, then people believe him because of his actions while being in an executive office for more than 16 years.
If Modi says that his mantra is “India First” then people believe him for which other political leader would take the risk of demonetisation to root out corruption just before crucial polls in Uttar Pradesh. If Modi says he is on social media to connect with people directly, without intermediaries, then people believe him because Modi joined social media while its value as an election influencing platform in India was still laughed at. And he makes it a point to actually engage his followers regularly.
It is this belief in Modi, in his credibility, that translates into his mass popularity: Be it in the arena of a political rallies or on the world stage of social media.
The author is CEO, Bluekraft Digital Foundation
Updated Date: May 03, 2018 16:01:00 IST