The use of one to one communication contributed significantly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election campaign and image building.
The power of mouth to mouth or interpersonal communication has long been evident, historically. It played a major role in our independence struggle and the defeat of Indira Gandhi after the emergency. What made Mr. Modi’s interpersonal communication different was that he used technology effectively to reach persons whom he could not directly reach. Thus he achieved a form of interpersonal communication through media, achieving a sort of direct interactivity through social media. The interactivity of social media helped him to create the impression that he was directly dealing with people and not addressing them over public address systems, radio or television.
Modi and his campaigners used all channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Slideshare, Flickr, and Pinterest to overwhelm these channels with positive images about Mr. Modi, in the process suppressing negative images related to Godhra riots, abandoning of his wife Jashodaben and the like. The use of modern technology like holograms at his 3D rallies, video conferences for his Chai Pe Charcha and Google Hangouts helped him shed the image of someone with communal and conservative attitudes of an old generation with one of a tech savvy person. He also addressed hundreds of rallies across India.
Depending on one’s political perspective, one can say that Mr. Modi used direct communication to bring down a corrupt government that was facing policy paralysis, or that he used it to give false hopes and wrong notions in his pursuit for power. However, it remains a fact that the Congress failed to counter the communication offensive. Even when Rahul Gandhi opened a Twitter account recently, it was in the name of his office, taking away any semblance of assumption that he was directly interacting with people. His forays into tribal hamlets and the like has only marginal effect and it is doubtful that any meaningful one to one communication takes place on such occasions.
On the other hand, AAP leader Aravind Kejriwal uses one to one communication with surprising results. If it was not for his direct approach to the people, his apology about his demitting office in a huff would not have won acceptance.