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HindustanTimes Thu,10 Jul 2014

Internet fan following rising, but Modi may not like it

Hindustantimes.com  New Delhi, September 03, 2012
First Published: 15:25 IST(3/9/2012) | Last Updated: 15:51 IST(3/9/2012)

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's internet popularity keeps rising. He has over 900, 000 Twitter followers, over 600,000 'likes' for his official Facebook page and there are scores of Facebook fan pages dedicated to him. He got over 5,000 questions when he held a Google+ Hang Out on Friday.

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But are his internet followers a problem or a hindrance to his career even?

An article witten by B Raman, a national security analyst and former bureaucrat, for the Outlook magazine has set people wondering.

"Mr Modi has every right to aspire to be the next Prime Minister. But he will remain quarantined in Gujarat unless he rids himself of the support of the online supporters who are marked by abuse, invectives and intimidation," Raman writes in the article.

Raman wrote the article in context of a court convicting 31 accused in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case last week. He noted that while people "admire" Modi as an administrator and "concede his remarkable contribution to the economic progress of his State" but he is yet to garner "pan-Indian acceptability".

"The style of the online blitzkrieg adopted by his die-hard followers in India and abroad reminiscent of the methods of the Nazi stormtroopers, continues to add to the disquiet. I have been drawing attention to these Storm-troopers and their obnoxious methods marked by abuse, invectives and intimidation since last year. I have been repeatedly pointing out that these Stormtroopers, claiming to act on behalf of Mr Modi, have been doing a tremendous disservice to his future and may come in the way of the wider acceptance sought by him. I have repeatedly urged that he should openly dissociate himself from them and condemn their methods. He has not done so thereby giving rise to an unfortunate suspicion that he may be politically benefiting from them.

A screen grab of Narendra Modi's official Twitter handle. The chief minister uses Twitter to announce government schemes and make statements.

"Mr Modi has every right to aspire to be the next Prime Minister of India, but his acceptability will not improve unless he rids himself of the support of the online stormtrooper elements. Till he does so, he will remain quarantined in Gujarat," writes Raman.

A screen grab of Narendra Modi's official Facebook page. There are scores of Facebook pages set up by his fans.

His article split up opinion on Twitter.

"B Raman so aptly put the sentiment of many like me about Modi. Admire his administrative skill but difficult to accept as national leader," tweeted @kunalmajumder.

@Spinoza9642 disagreed with Raman's article, tweeting: "I think Cong (Congress) must immediately hire this B Raman fellow as chief strategist. His grasp of strategy is unreal."

Raman made a point though. Modi's online supporters aggressively defend him but they often sound shrill and aggressive.

'My way or the highway', Hindustan Times' opinion piece urging the politician to be a better team player, got 53 comments. Most comments supporting Modi were needlessly aggressive.

'Modi-fication needed', another HT editorial, poked fun at Modi's comment that malnourishment in Gujarat could be attributed to vegetarian diet of the people and the middle class being more beauty conscious than health conscious. Again comments to the article are aggressive and humourless.

When Raman complained about the "online blitzkrieg" of Modi supporters, he had a point.


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