Reeling from the relentless conversation about the possible collusion of the Congress with the now-discredited ‘electoral consulting’ firm, Cambridge Analytica, the grand old party decided to shift the focus of the debate.
Initiated by the Congress IT Cell head, and spurred on by Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Sanjay Jha, the hashtag #DeleteNaMoApp cropped up on Twitter. Many other Congress supporters joined the fray and soon the hashtag was trending in India. Several media reports had suggested a possible security flaw in the Narendra Modi app.
#DeleteNaMoApp is top trend. About time every citizen of India fought back against a dangerous fascist party that went to Supreme Court to deny us our Right to Privacy as a fundamental right.
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) March 23, 2018
The Narendra Modi app, possibly the most downloaded app for any world leader, acts as a direct contact point between the prime minister and millions of Indians. Experts also suggest that, unlike 2014, the next election warfare will take place on app-based platforms, instead of social media sites. Predictably, the app had to face the brunt of the Congress’ ire.
The Congress, accused of harvesting personal data through Cambridge Analytica, tried to turn the tables on BJP by running a coordinated campaign to target Modi's massive online popularity. But it backfired spectacularly on the Congress, leading to a surge in downloads of NaMo App.
Modi unarguably continues to remain the most popular politician in India by a huge margin. He also has his own ways of staying connected with his constituents and these mostly involve a route of direct communication. From the vastly-popular radio talk show 'Mann Ki Baat' to town-halls with students, Modi has always stayed away from media-directed public interaction. The Narendra Modi app is one such way which lets the prime minister directly engage with his supporters. Modi uses the app extensively to source questions and receive feedback on various initiatives.
Apart from giving them space to deflect attention from the flak they were receiving on the Cambridge Analytica fall out, the opportunity gave the Congress opportunity to strike a blow on one of the most successful communication models of Modi.
Apart from giving themselves space to deflect attention from the flak they were receiving on the Cambridge Analytica fall out, the reports gave the Congress an opportunity to strike a blow on one of the most successful communication models of Modi.
But many political observers and netizens found the situation extremely counter-intuitive for the Congress. They believed that the hashtag being trended by the Congress party has actually drawn the attention of even the people who were not aware about the app and has actually ended up publicizing and promoting the app instead. And in the strange way that the internet works, they were proved right by the end of the evening. The Congress strategy massively backfired and it was seen that a large number of people who may have been previously indifferent about the app, had actually gone ahead and downloaded it. In fact, BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya went ahead and urged the people to download the app on their phones and engage with the prime minister.
It is understandable that Congress is afraid of PM Modi, but it is amusing to see them so afraid of even NaMo App! I take this opportunity to urge everyone to install PM’s app and connect with him directly! It is simple, just dial 1800 20 90 920 and get the link to download.
— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) March 23, 2018
The users chose to respond to the Congress trend by downloading the app and sharing screenshots of it online.
In the end, the Congress was left with a derailed plan that misfired massively and the Narendra Modi app got more users and more rave reviews online. The internet, as they say, is an unsparing place and it was the turn of the Congress on Friday to be at the receiving end of it.
The Congress must understand that it needs to speak on real issues, and not merely target Modi. His popularity and their relative lack of credibility ensured that their persistent targeting of him did not work for more than a decade and a half now. There's no reason such a strategy will suddenly start working today.
The author is a senior journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and commentary on public affairs. She tweets using the handle @missartola.
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Updated Date: Mar 24, 2018 19:44:12 IST