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From daily tirade to radio silence, how Kejriwal stopped Modi-bashing on Twitter

Since April this year, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s tweets have not mentioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi by name at all.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2017 23:42 IST
Samarth Bansal and Gulam Jeelani
Samarth Bansal and Gulam Jeelani
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Arvind Kejriwal,Narendra Modi,Twitter
Political analysts say the change was a result of the realisation that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s personal attacks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi had probably backfired in the Punjab and Goa and elections.(Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal appears to have tamped down his Twitter tirade against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an analysis of three years of data from the microblogging site shows, indicating a shift in his social media strategy.

A Hindustan Times analysis of tweets from the Aam Aadmi Party chief’s verified handle @ArvindKejriwal shows he mentioned “Modi” in 255 of his 1,303 posts between May 2016 and February 2017 in either English or Hindi.

In these 10 months Kejriwal’s attacks against Modi peaked on Twitter. On an average, he posted 26 tweets every month during this period mentioning Modi by name.

But since April, Kejriwal’s tweets have not mentioned the Prime Minister by name at all.

The change of strategy appears to coincide with the BJP’s resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh and the AAP’s defeat in Punjab and Goa earlier this year, hurting its national ambitions.

Political analysts say the change was a result of the realisation that personal attacks against Modi had probably backfired in these elections.

“If you keep attacking a person who is already popular, people would think you have some kind of an agenda,” said Sanjay Kumar, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

“In fact, that is the image that Arvind Kejriwal had built—all the time busy attacking Modi, reasonably and unreasonably, which gave him bad press.”

So, the party changed tack, replacing aggression against Modi with a “positive campaign” ahead of the Delhi municipal polls in March.

Indeed, the AAP’s 2015 Delhi assembly social media campaign was focused more on Kejriwal’s 49-day stint as chief minister in 2013-14, rather than an anti-campaign against Modi.

However, after winning in 2015, Kejriwal upped the ante against Modi on Twitter as his government ran into repeated confrontations with the Centre. Kejriwal’s tweets mentioning Modi reached a peak of 52 in November last year as he attacked the government’s move to junk high-value banknotes.

But the loss in state polls forced a rethink of that aggressive strategy, although a senior AAP leader insisted it was because “Modi’s popularity was on the decline” anyway.

“If we continue to target him he will get a chance to play the victimhood card,” said Saurabh Bharadwaj, party MLA from Greater Kailash.

To be sure, Kejriwal’s reduced focus on Modi coincides with an overall fall in his Twitter activity.

Between January and November 2015, Kejriwal tweeted, on an average, 40 times a month. From December 2015 to February 2017, his tweet frequency increased by three times, averaging 120 tweets a month.

But since April this year, he has posted about 38 tweets a month.

“Many things change in the organisation depending on the feedback,” said Ankit Lal, AAP’s social media strategist.

“It is something that we as an organisation are doing.”

First Published: Oct 27, 2017 17:12 IST