Is Modi the Kanye West of Indian politics?

Published October 1, 2015
There is no doubting the power of images these days. —Reuters
There is no doubting the power of images these days. —Reuters

Know the annoying aunt who pushes the bride and groom aside during a wedding photo session to dominate the wedding album? Modi did the exact same thing with Mark Zuckerberg recently. The incident went viral because, let’s admit it, it involved the leader of the biggest country in the world: Facebook.

Politicians will grab any moment for the right kind of publicity. The traditional door-to-door meetings, funeral and wedding visits are getting quite parochial now; the Internet is the big stage.

Also read: Indian PM Modi makes rock star appearance at Facebook

The throbbing heart of the new generation is not the wrinkles of print media; it’s the glaring retina displays of mobile devices. And with the younger generation getting increasingly fascinated by all things political, they've become the juiciest piece of pie for politicians to lay their hands on.

Back in the day, when a young Bill Clinton played the Saxophone in the Arsenio Hall show at NBC, many seasoned politicians termed it as amateurish and “un-presidential”. There was no Internet, no Facebook and no Instagram. Those were the days of cable news. But Clinton's simple act of youthful exuberance was part of what won him the election.

Years later, the Internet took over the world and Obama leapt from being an underdog story to the presidential podium, thanks in part to the relentless power of social media.

In our own country, Imran Khan transformed a relatively small political party to a serious contender, again, thanks to the tsunami of opinions on the tidal waves of social media.

Also read: Where does Pakistan stand as India chases digital dreams?

There is no doubting the power of images when you consider the fact that the current photo with the most retweets is a rather impromptu selfie at an Oscar ceremony.

So, Modi can be forgiven for hording a little bit of online space if it serves him. Right?

The Indian Prime Minister definitely has an eye for the camera; or perhaps an inbuilt sensor which tells him where the lens in the room is. (Much like a pigeon, which, they say, has an inbuilt sensor for where the North is. But let's not get started on India and pigeons.)

Also read: Pakistani spy pigeon: The proof

I am no Nostradamus but I feel like Modi jee is on his way to becoming the Kanye West of Indian politics. Remember Kanye wrestling Taylor Swift for the microphone to announce Beyonce the winner? Pulling aside a gentleman in the middle of his own company’s headquarters so his face is next to yours in news content around the world is not very different from that.

Who then cares about history lessons at a Chinese Terracotta Museum or a political dialogue at the Saarc Summit when you can influence the ‘masses’ with just a picture; the gullible many who would rather share a photo on Instagram than read a lengthy policy outline.

Maybe Narendra West is really on to something here.

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