Modi and His Legacy of Global Awards

NEW DELHI, INDIA - JUNE 17: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the media ahead of the first session of 17th Lok Sabha, in the presence of Minister of State in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal, at Parliament of India on June 17, 2019 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Ever since Narendra Modi swept to national prominence in 2014 and ‘Chaiwala’ and ‘Chowkidar’ became emblems depicting endless possibilities for a new India, a plethora of awards have chased the Prime Minister, causing euphoria amongst his supporters and sniggers from those who opposed him and his political party.

The most recent one was the Order of St. Andrew of the Russian Federation which was established in 1698, abolished by the USSR post World War II and resurrected in 1998. Prior to that came the UAE’s highest honor- the Zayed Medal-, the Philip Kotler Award, the Seoul Peace Prize, the Champions of Earth award of the UN and more.

Each time the awards were announced, social media went berserk. The ruling party MPs tweeted and re-tweeted details of the awards while the detractors took pains to suggest that they actually meant nothing, like how the Philip Kotler Award which was the first-ever. Of course, the Opposition parties remained conspicuous with their silence.

The latest in this list came late last week as India and Afghanistan were battling it out at the Aegis Bowl in Hampshire, UK. While everyone was expecting twitter banter to revolve around this hard-fought match, news about Narendra Modi being chosen the “most powerful world leader” began to circulate around various social platforms.

A UK-based news website called British Herald said that based on voting, Modi was elected as the most powerful leader of the free world. The website said Modi won close to 31 per cent of the votes and was ahead of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. There was no mention of the voter base or the locations from where the votes were collected.

Right on cue the BJP ministers took to their social handles to publicize the news with a euphoria that would have done Julius Caesar proud. Union Minister Giriraj Singh described Modi as the “Supreme Leader” in his tweet and urged the country to celebrate the event with national pride. News channels like Zee News, Republic TV and Aaj Tak swallowed it. Dr. Harsh Vardhan said it was a matter of pride for 130 crore Indians!

A cross-section of party leaders and functionaries went to town and suddenly World Cup cricket lost its position on the top social media trending list. By early evening, a couple of news websites began ferreting into the organization that announced the award, and true to form detractors of Modi began sharing caustic comments.

Just so we get a better idea of this social media scam, British Herald is owned by Herald Media Network Limited, registered by four Malayalees in the UK barely a year ago. Ansif Ashraf, the majority owner, is listed as a businessman from Kerala. His Wikipedia page claims that Ashraf is involved with the APJ Abdul Kalam International Foundation, which appears to be a defunct one, given that the website hardly has any information about its activities.

The website has an Alexa ranking of 28,518, which ironically grew from 95,979 just three months ago. The publication has less than 4000 followers on Twitter and just over 57,000 followers on Facebook. In simple terms, the true story behind the award is that a group of enterprising Indians managed to create traction for their online publication!

Which brings us to the social media strategy of political leaders and parties. At a time when Rahul Gandhi is getting roasted for a cryptic tweet about the Indian Army and Yoga Day, it may be in the fitness of things for the ruling BJP to create some protocol so that such embarrassing social media incidents can be avoided.

Not because it shows India and its leaders in a bad light, but because Narendra Modi really doesn’t require affirmation from around the world. He has received it aplenty from half of this country’s population, who elected him with an overwhelming vote to lead them for the next five years.