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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Trending in 30 days: Modi government makes most of social media

Vishakha Saxena , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 24, 2014
First Published: 18:21 IST(24/6/2014) | Last Updated: 18:47 IST(24/6/2014)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who built his campaign by leveraging the power of social media in the run-up to the general elections, continues to be active on Twitter and Facebook even after forming the government at the Centre.

In a first of its kind, PM Modi began his first official day as prime minister (May 26) tweeting: "On my way to Atal ji's residence to seek his blessings." This was followed by an update on the Gorakhdham Express tragedy that claimed 40 lives earlier in the day.

Since then, he has already tweeted over 110 times on a range of issues, from paying tributes to Veer Savarkar and Pandit Nehru to updates on his first international visit as PM to Bhutan, and even kept his followers updated while "taking round of the PMO".

Tweets from PM Modi since May 26:

The digitally active PM, however, has invited a fair share of criticism on the microblogging site for keeping mum on a number of crucial issues like the string of rapes in Uttar Pradesh (especially the Badaun rape and murder case), the murder of Pune techie Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh and even the Iraq crisis.

"If MMS was a silent PM, Modi is a noisy PM. No signal, all noise. Only twitpics of meetings, nothing on rapes, Iraq or fare hikes." tweeted @Bawli_Booch to his over 8,000 followers. Another user @brownbrumby tweeted, "Why is modi silent on Badaun and Pune? Will he react only for certain castes and communities?"

The criticisms notwithstanding, an unfazed Modi has gone about sensitising his colleagues on the need to digitise everyday official affairs as well. Within the first week of taking over PMO, he directed his ministers to open Twitter and Facebook accounts to reach out to the people. He asked his ministers to initiate discussion, engage with people and post policy initiatives concerning their respective ministries.

He also encouraged ministers to share e-mails of their respective ministries on Twitter for feedback. Within days of him taking oath as prime minister, the official handle for PMO @PMOIndia became operational, tweeting updates about PM Modi's activities, complete with pictures.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/5/2705pmo3.jpg

Read: Official PMO Twitter account handed over to PM Modi’s office after controversy

A separate handle - @HMOIndia - was also created for the office of the Home Minister of India. The official handle of Prakash Javadekar's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, operational since the past government's term, too has been tweeting regularly with images and videos.

Meanwhile, many major BJP leaders like Arun Jaitely, Rajnath Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani have already been quite active on Twitter and have continued to be so after taking office. Irani, for example, tweeted about the steps taken by her to address the Beas river tragedy that is feared to have claimed the lives of 25 people. The actor-turned-politician wasn't shy of commenting on the controversy surrounding her educational qualifications either, tweeting "In public life one should be open to scrutiny and criticism. So am I."

Swaraj, in fact, changed her handle from @SushmaSwarajBJP to @SushmaSwaraj after she was given a place in the cabinet.

Other cabinet ministers on Twitter include Uma Bharti, VK Singh, Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar, Maneka Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Nirmala Sitharaman, Kiren Rijiju, Santosh Gangwar, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Ananthkumar, Kalraj Mishra and Jual Oram.

Further, the Press Information Bureau, "the nodal agency for dissemination of information on Government of India", too has been actively tweeting updates about the government's goings on.

Interestingly, the board outside Deputy Secretary Dr Sumit Seth's office went viral on Twitter as it read '#DigitalDemocracy' under his name.

The digital incline of the Modi government doesn't really come as a surprise. A major chunk of BJP's campaign strategy for this year's Lok Sabha elections was aggressively devoted to using social media for engagement. In fact, many believe that one of the reasons behind Congress' rout was its absence from social media platforms.

Modi, who had over 4.25 million followers around May 26, is already quite close to touching the 5 million followers mark. On Facebook, the Prime Minister has over 18 million likes. Interestingly, the Indian Prime Minister is a long way behind US President Barack Obama who boasts of over 43 million Twitter followers and over 41 million Facebook likes.

Full coverage: 30 days of Modi Sarkar


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