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How PM Modi Reached Out to 2 Crore+ Millennial Voters With a Series of Bollywood Selfies

With the Lok Sabha elections just a few months away, the BJP is looking to tap into as many varied constituencies as it can - and a key element of PM Modi’s modus operandi, as it turns out is the Hindi film industry.

Zoya Mateen | News18.com

Updated:January 25, 2019, 11:24 PM IST
How PM Modi Reached Out to 2 Crore+ Millennial Voters With a Series of Bollywood Selfies
PM Narendra Modi's icnonic selfie with some of the biggest names in Bollywood stars

New Delhi: It’s being hailed as the ‘Selfie of the Year’, even though the year has barely begun – a gleeful Prime Minister, squeezed together with Bollywood giants like Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor and Varun Dhawan, among others. They were a part of a clutch of filmmakers and actors who flew to Delhi on January 10, 2019, to meet the PM and discuss how they can work towards “nation-building”.

When Karan Johar posted the photo on Twitter, it reached about 16 million of his followers— receiving 50,000 likes and nearly 4 thousand retweets. When he posted the same selfie, along with another photo with Modi on Instagram, this time with an eloquent caption praising Modi, it reached more than seven million of his followers and received more than 10 lakh likes.

With the Lok Sabha elections just a few months away and the pitch around it by different political parties about to reach its crescendo, the BJP is looking to tap into as many varied constituencies as it can - and a key element of Modi’s strategic outreach as it turns out is the Hindi film industry.

In just two months, the PM has been part of at least three such events or interactions related to the cinema world and has been seen in the company of an entourage of Bollywood celebrities. The common thread among these meets has been his pictures with the celebrities he met and the social media traction he got in return.

On December 18, Modi met a delegation of producers from the Hindi film industry who called on him, including big names like Karan Johar, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar, Siddharth Roy Kapur and Rakesh Roshan, among others. Akshay Kumar alone has more than 23 million Twitter followers. His photo from the meeting got nearly 60,000 likes. Kumar, who is usually known for his adrenaline driven macho roles, has maintained a niche following. With just one photo, to a great extent, Modi managed to tap into that.

Less than a month later on January 11, he met actors Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal, among others. Singh has 19.3 million followers on Instagram. His post that showed him hugging Prime Minister Narendra Modi has 31.5 lakh likes.

The PM, with an air of congeniality, also makes it a point to tweet his thanks to the celebrities who shared the frame with him, often adding a whiff of humour here and there. Bearing photographic evidence of beaming selfies, filmmakers and actors have been posting pictures with the PM on their Instagram and Twitter feeds.

But when celebrities align with a candidate, what are they actually offering? The answer involves reach, resources, and clout. Yet these past few days have mostly highlighted the political potential of a celebrity’s mass following on social media— the employment of social interactions in order to reach out to an extremely vast cross-section of the population, which may necessarily not be political.

The most recent lot of images came from the inauguration of the National Museum of Indian Cinema at the Films Division headquarters in Mumbai on last Saturday. Among the stars who were clicked with Modi at the event were Asha Bhosle, Aamir Khan, Jeetendra, AR Rahman, Kapil Sharma, Rohit Shetty, Badshah, Parineeti Chopra, Bhushan Kumar, Divya Dutta and Kunal Kohli. Once again, pictures of Modi hugging and laughing with these stars broke the internet.

Several of the celebs present at the event tweeted their photos with the PM. If one is to simply add the number of likes on every picture, the average reach comes out to about 15 lakh. Now add to that the retweets, the retweets on the Prime minister’s retweets and we are looking at confounding numbers.

The results of recent elections show that the position of the PM, who was until recently the runaway favourite for a second term in office, has become more uncertain, and his image as a man of development has also taken a hit due to the plight of farmers and unemployment along with policies like demonetisation and GST.

Along with the blaring campaigns and counter-attacks on the opposition in parliament or at public rallies, this time Modi has decided to leave no stone unturned. When Modi flashes his glinting teeth and strikes a pose with some of the most influential and popular faces of Bollywood, he inadvertently makes it seem that he is one of them. It’s like the archetype of a “cool boy” at college: he knows everyone, everyone knows him – wants to know him. This guy travels the world albeit, with a purpose. He’s big on social media and easily the centre of attraction wherever he goes.

This is why the unique gravitas to photo-ops and wedding appearances made by Modi all serve a purpose larger than endorsement – of cultivating on that massive fan base of celebrities which is willing to see him beyond the obvious. Celebrities can make popular political positions more popular, or when battling anti-incumbency, positions that were unpopular less unpopular. With just one selfie, PM Modi manages to achieve all of that.

In the past 25 days, arch rivals BSP and SP had announced a historic poll alliance in Uttar Pradesh, leaders from 23 opposition parties united in West Bengal for Mamata Banerjee’s mammoth rally and pledged the “end of BJP,” while in Karnataka, a game of hide and seek broke out, as both BJP and Congress MLAs were sent scurrying to resorts amid defection politics.

Then suddenly, as if the political potpourri wasn’t simmering enough, a self-proclaimed mysterious cyber expert decided to declare that EVM hacking is real. Two days later, in an absolute game-changer, Priyanka Gandhi announced her official assent into politics.

However, even though these developments together form an inextricable part of the current political discourse ahead of the crucial elections, they’re probably not even half as known, read, or talked about as the fact that in these past 25 days, Prime minister Narendra Modi was hanging out with many other actors from the Hindi film industry.

The PM’s soft power approach, focuses on getting and publicising celebrity endorsements because stars and “influencers” are already all-over social media delivering messages to this cohort. Since the 18-24 demographic of the youth vote is considered to be most sympathetic to their influence, so inspiring messages from their favorite famous figures could, hypothetically, urge them to the polls.

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