PM Modi Cries: Indians React With ‘Like’, ‘Dislike’ and ‘Haha’

Dislikes outnumber likes even on PM Narendra Modi’s official YouTube channel. 

6 min read

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to have become "emotional" during an online interaction with healthcare workers in his constituency Varanasi on Friday, 21 May.

Naturally, the video went viral, with both the PM's supporters and critics sharing it.

The political response, of course, was on predictable lines – with the PM's supporters calling it an "outpouring of grief" over the people who have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Opposition calling it a "drama" or "crocodile tears".

But how did the Aam Janata see it? Did it lessen public criticism of the handling of the crisis or did it make matters worse?

We'll try to analyse two aspects:

1. Online responses to the video of "PM Modi becoming emotional."

2. What does it mean politically when a leader cries?


Online Responses – Why Are So Many People Finding It Funny?

To examine online responses, we've focused on news channels that posted the video as they would have a more diverse followers' base comprising people of all political beliefs as well as many unaligned people.

Political party pages and pages of individual leaders, on the other hand, are more likely to have a follower base skewed to the respective parties.

Note: The data is from 4-6 PM on 22 May.


So, on the PM's video posted on ABP News' Facebook page, 2,100 users clicked on "like" and 1,400 clicked on "Haha". Other responses like "love", "angry" were less than 100.

On the post on Times of India’s website on the other hand, 2400 clicked on “haha” and 761 on “like”. On NDTV, there were 213 “haha” and 108 “likes”.

Then on TV9 Marathi, 721 clicked on "haha” and 361 on “like”. On India Today, there were 1000 laughs and 272 likes.

Now, "likes" broadly indicate support for Modi's "emotional" outburst. We say broadly because people are statistically more likely to press "like" on Facebook simply because it involves just one click. "Haha", "love", "angry" or "care" on the other hand require scrolling over the like button and then picking the desired option.

Despite this statistical reality, if there's a disproportionately higher number of "haha" responses, it should worry PM Modi's spin doctors.

It does appear that at least on Facebook, the proportion of "haha" responses is higher in English news pages and pages of non-Hindi regional languages, compared to pages of Hindi news channels.


On YouTube, however, the picture is very different. Unlike Facebook, "like" and "dislike" buttons on YouTube both require one click, therefore there is an equal possibility for the viewer clicking either based on his emotions.

On the video posted in Doordarshan, there are 274 likes and 1300 dislikes.

On ABP News, there are 2,000 likes and 12,000 dislikes.

On India Today, there were 36 likes and 320 dislikes.

Therefore on YouTube the response is overwhelmingly negative towards the PM.

This seems a comparatively new phenomena.

Let's compare this with previous instances of PM Modi crying.

When PM Modi became emotional during the farewell of Rajya Sabha leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, the video on DD News got 15,000 likes and 4,800 dislikes.

This is not surprising as many appreciated the PM's "warmth" towards an Opposition leader.

Then Modi's "emotional speech in Parliament" soon after becoming PM in 2014 got 32,000 likes 4300 dislikes on ET Now YouTube page

Therefore, it is clear that PM Modi's "tears" regarding the pandemic have received a much more skeptical, if not amused response compared to previous such instances.


Modi's Own YouTube Channel

The responses on Modi's own official YouTube page are also surprising.

The full live video of PM Modi's interaction with frontline workers in Varanasi has 5,100 likes and 3,900 dislikes.

But in four other recent videos, dislikes outnumber likes.

For instance, a video titled “PM Modi applauds doctors and healthcare workers” cut from the same speech, has 1,300 likes and 2,900 dislikes.

Another video titled "Jahaan Bimar, Wahin Upchar" again from the same address has 2,300 likes and 5,300 dislikes.

Then another one titled "Few initiatives and movements that helped combat Corona" has 2,000 likes and 2,600 dislikes.

A video on "PM Modi's appeal to the people" posted a week ago, has 3,300 likes and 7,600 dislikes.

This spree of “dislikes” for Modi’s videos has been on the rise in the last one year. His Mann ki Baat video from August 2020 got over 5 lakh dislikes within a few days of being posted.

This was apparently due to NEET and JEE aspirants and students aspiring for various government jobs upset due to delay in results, recruitment notification and issuance of admit cards.

Then during the farmers' protest too, the number of dislikes on Modi's videos increased.

Negative Comments

It's not just dislikes, the videos also stand out for the large number of negative comments they get.

Let's take the latest video on Modi's YouTube channel for instance, titled 'Jahaan Bimar, Wahin Upchar'.

Out of the top 100 comments, we analysed, 88 were negative, eight were positive and four were neutral.

The negative comments ranged from asking the PM to resign, to accusing him of "doing drama" and telling him to "talk less and give vaccines".

The positive comments were largely of people using the folded hands emoticon while a few said that they will "be with Modi, come what may".

Here's a sample of the latest comments:

Dislikes outnumber likes even on PM Narendra Modi’s official YouTube channel. 
Dislikes outnumber likes even on PM Narendra Modi’s official YouTube channel. 

What Happens When A Leader Cries?

Crying publicly is a political risk for leaders as it can be construed as weakness. This is based on a unfortunate premise that leaders are somehow supposed to be unemotional, different from normal humans, even cold.

But sometimes tears help create an emotional bond between the leader and people. This happens when the leader is articulating a larger shared emotion that already exists among the people, or when his/her act of crying evokes a protective or sympathetic instinct among people.

This has now become even more possible with every such moment being recorded visually and disseminated to go viral within minutes.

Modi is not the first major Indian politician to cry publicly and he certainly won't be the last.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is said to have cried listening to Lata Mangeshkar sing "Ae mere watan ke logo" to honour the martyrs of the 1962 war with China.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee is said to have cried during an interview before his swearing in as Prime Minister for the first time in 1996.

The other BJP patriarch – Lal Krishna Advani – is know to tear up often during public events, mostly while recounting and listening to past instances. He is also said to have cried during the special screenings of Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Shikara and Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par.


What sets apart Modi from someone like Advani is that most of the times when the former has cried, has been on politically crucial occasions especially when he's facing criticism.

For instance, the PM's tears during Azad's farewell came at a time when he was being accused of harming India's farmers through the new farm laws.

He also broke down in November 2016 while speaking about people suffering due to demonetisation.

The fact that Modi's tears come at moments when he's under fire, give strength to accusations that he's doing to escape criticism or soften the attacks on him.

In 2012, the then Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit also had to face similar accusations after she broke down in public following the Nirbhaya Rape Case.

Online reactions may not be an adequate proof of Modi's popularity or the lack of it. But since the "Modi becomes emotional" video is being shared specifically extensively on social media, the amused and sceptical responses do indicate that it may have backfired. It didn't evoke sympathy or blunt criticism. At most it may have given a momentary distraction.

It is in sharp contrast to how Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait's tears during a media interaction, revitalised the farmers' movement especially in western Uttar Pradesh.

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