Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one of the forces behind the mainstreaming of social media use for political communication, on Monday took the internet by a storm when he hinted he might give up his social media accounts on Sunday.
The post garnered thousands of likes and retweets within minutes. Union Ministers Smriti Irani, Hardeep Puri and Anurag Thakur and BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya were among those who retweeted Modi's surprise tweet to exit social media platforms.
Following the post, #NoSir became the number 1 trending hashtag on Twitter.
The internet was filled with speculations. From the conjecture that the PM might be planning to switch to an Indian platform to the possibility that he might be hurt over social media's role in stoking Delhi riots — the guessing game continued until late night.
Amruta Fadnavis, wife of former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, declared she would follow in PM Modi's footsteps and quit social media. "Sometimes it's the smallest decision that can change our life forever! I will follow the path of my leader!!," tweeted Amruta Fadnavis.
Sometimes it’s the smallest decision that can change our life forever ! I will follow the path of my leader !! https://t.co/D7l1iZcosS— AMRUTA FADNAVIS (@fadnavis_amruta) March 2, 2020
Fadnavis was not alone. The list of people pledging to follow the prime minister and leave social media grew gradually and hashtags like #iwillalsoleavetwitter and #NoModiNoTwitter also trended highly on Twitter in India.
However, the PM's post also drew strong reactions from the Congress party and several Opposition leaders. Rahul Gandhi replied to Modi’s post, tweeting: “Give up hatred, not social media accounts.”
Give up hatred, not social media accounts. pic.twitter.com/HDymHw2VrB— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 2, 2020
Reacting to PM's tweet, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said he wished the Prime Minister would give the same piece of advice to the social media trolls who intimidated others in his name.
"Respected Modi ji, Earnestly wish you would give this advice to the concerted army of trolls who abuse-intimidate-badger-threaten others every second in your name! Sincere Regards, Citizens of India," tweeted Surjewala
Respected Modi ji,
Earnestly wish you would give this advise to the concerted army of trolls, who abuse-intimidate-badger-threaten others every second in you name!
Citizens of India. https://t.co/hGtf64Fyf9 — Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 2, 2020
Modi's "ploy" of leaving social media is to divert the attention of the nation from burning issues, said Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
Modi Ji's new ploy of leaving social media is to divert the attention of the nation from burning issues. pic.twitter.com/i0yF4bDZm5— Adhir Chowdhury (@adhirrcinc) March 2, 2020
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav took a dig at PM Modi with his tweet, saying, "Thinking of closing the path of social dialogue is not a good thing. There are other more meaningful things to leave."
सामाजिक संवाद के रास्ते बंद करने की सोचना अच्छी नहीं है बात... छोड़ने के लिए और भी बहुत कुछ सार्थक है साहब... जैसे सत्ता का मोह-लगाव, विद्वेष की राजनीति का ख़्याल, मन-मर्ज़ी की बात, चुनिंदा मीडिया से करवाना मनचाहे सवाल और विश्व विहार... कृपया इन विचारणीय बिंदुओं पर भी करें विचार!— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) March 2, 2020
With 53.3 million followers on Twitter, 35.2 million on Instagram, 4.51 million on YouTube and 44.73 million on Facebook, Modi is one of the most popular world leaders on social media. Modi is only the third world leader to have more than 50 million followers on Twitter. The first two are former US President Barack Obama and present US President Donald Trump.