Indian PM Narendra Modi 'scares' millions of social followers

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes a 'selfie' after casting his vote at a polling station in AhmedabadImage source, STRDEL
Image caption,
Prime Minister Modi is the third most followed leader on Twitter after Donald Trump

The world's second most popular leader - when it comes to social media, at least - sent shockwaves through the internet on Monday, after announcing he was considering leaving the platforms.

After all, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only politician to even come close to challenging US President Donald Trump's online dominance.

And so it was somewhat unsurprising that the hashtag #ModiQuitsSocialMedia began trending in India, with users quick to share a heady cocktail of conspiracy theories, memes and desperate pleas.

However, Mr Modi, who has 54 million followers on Twitter, 35.2 million followers on picture sharing platform Instagram and 44 million followers on Facebook, soon revealed the true reason behind his abandonment of social media.

On Tuesday, he said that he would "give away my social media accounts to women whose life & work inspire us".

But the "big reveal" came only after his first tweet generated an absolute social media storm.

Some theories suggested he was quitting social media platforms as they were being controlled by his opponents. Others speculated that he would launch an indigenous social platform, to match Twitter and Facebook, something similar to social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo in China.

"Expect SM companies stock to crash," wrote one confident user.

Apart from the theories, there were desperate pleas from his fans. One wrote: "Please Sir, You can't leave social media now for the sake of your fans!" Another added: "Modi Ji if you leave social media , they will use it against you and nation interest."

"For me he is not only PM of India but also emotion. You're king of social media. Don't go sir."

Some users suggested that his account had been hacked.

Soon, #Iwillalsoleavetwitter started trending.

Arun Yadav, the head of Haryana state IT and social media for BJP, tweeted asking the PM to not quit the platform as it was one way Indians could communicate with him.

But there were also jokes.

"Spare a thought for Twitter, Facebook & their stocks. PM Modi is all set to demonetise social media," wrote one user, referring to the overnight decision to ban high value currency notes in November.

One user suggested that the prime minister was quitting all other platforms in order to make his TikTok debut.

"Modi ji is a typical Indian boyfriend after breakup," quipped one Twitter user.

"Modiji should be awarded Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace in the digital world," said another.

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#NoModiNoTwitter was a India trend on Twitter after PM Modi's tweet yesterday

There were political reactions too.

In a cheeky response, Rahul Gandhi, former president of the main opposition Congress party, tweeted: "Give up hatred, not social media accounts."

Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor followed suit, writing: "The PM's abrupt announcement has led many to worry whether it's a prelude to banning these services throughout the country too."

Mr Modi's eventual tweet which clarified matters was seen by some as an anti-climax.

But for the millions who were pleading with him to reconsider, this is surely a big relief.