Trends, mitron?

Trends, mitron?

Social media as a barometer of national affairs — it’s an idea the Modi sarkar is banking on.

If Bollywood were inspired by the latest initiative of the Modi sarkar, the film might be titled Do Aankhen Chalees Haath. After Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had spoken of abolishing his own ministry — echoing his predecessor Manish Tewari — his staff have been redeployed from producing mass media to watching social media. A team of 20 has reportedly been detailed to monitor tweets tagging the prime minister and to feed him trending topics every eight hours.

The idea that social media bears watching follows naturally from the BJP’s perception that the Modi wave first rose in that space. However, the arithmetic introduces complications. A recent Pew survey found that only 16 per cent of Indians use the internet at least occasionally or own a smartphone. Of these, 51 per cent use social networks. Of these, 35 per cent talk politics online.

If you work out the percentages, you will realise that a paltry 2.8 per cent of India talks politics online. And the Modi sarkar thinks this tiny club will swing the next election? But wait, do not scoff immediately. While internet access lags, 77 per cent of Indians have a mobile phone. And this week, Google has shown a commitment — by promoting Android L, a stripped down but capable operating system — to see that all 77 per cent have smartphones. So long as they’re Android, naturally.

Socially speaking, India is already one of the biggest emerging markets, and Google can only improve our access scores. Which means that the Modi sarkar is on the beam — the connected minority may yet gain enough strength to become a player in the national discourse.