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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Mint-on-sunday/  Narendra Modi takes his selfies seriously

Narendra Modi takes his selfies seriously

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's selfie craze has helped him connect with the common man and world leaders in equal measure

Photo: Shahbaz Khan/PTIPremium
Photo: Shahbaz Khan/PTI

There’s little doubt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a thing for technology, particularly social media. Right from the time social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook were gradually making their mark in India, Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, was the quintessential first-mover, leaving his political rivals behind.

Social media, for Modi and his governments—both at the state and now the centre—emerged as an integral part of communication with the masses, at least the ones with access to the Internet. It played a major role in his election as prime minister, amplifying Modi—the politician, the persona and the phenomenon as we know him today. His candidature and, later, the massive election campaign set mainstream news agenda. Everything he said and did became news.

And then came the selfies.

A brief history of Modi’s selfies

Well, let’s go back to the campaign trail before last year’s general election to find out more. Modi’s first selfie wasn’t exactly one, at least officially. While Modi was in Mumbai to address a massive rally in April last year, he posed with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Mumbai North-West (now MP) Poonam Mahajan. The same day, author Chetan Bhagat tweeted a selfie with Modi saying, “You know a leader has the youth pulse when he can discuss job creation and is still up for a selfie! (sic)." And thus began Modi’s selfie craze, a form of communication that appeals to the younger, tech-savvy crowd, also a good part of the future electorate.

The selfie could have landed Modi in trouble after he clicked a picture of himself with the BJP’s electoral symbol—the lotus—prominently displayed, immediately after he cast his vote. The Congress party even lodged a complaint with the Election Commission. But a few months later, in August, a magistrate court in Ahmedabad accepted the crime branch’s closure report and dropped proceedings against Modi, who had been elected prime minister on 16 May. On the day the BJP won the election, Modi posted a selfie with his mother.

There was no stopping Modi though. As he began touring the world as prime minister, his phone got busier, clicking selfies with almost every world leader he had meet. First came Tony Abbott, the Australian prime minister, followed by Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama. Then came film stars and Bollywood personalities—Sonam Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Sonu Nigam, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, you name them.

Recently, when Modi visited China, he posted a selfie with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, dubbed by many online as the “world’s most powerful selfie". In Mongolia, Modi posed with President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj.

Selfie booths

Earlier this year, ahead of the assembly polls in Delhi, the BJP in its bid to connect with the masses, especially the tech-savvy and selfie-crazed youth of the city, launched a campaign where people could pose for selfies with a digital avatar of the prime minister. The party set up a thousand “selfie booths" in public places such as shopping malls and parking lots across the city for its #SelfieWithModi campaign.

Unlike the assembly election, in which the BJP won only three seats, the campaign was a major success. According to reports, more than half a million people participated in the campaign and took selfies with Modi’s avatar.

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Published: 23 May 2015, 11:35 PM IST
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