This story by me was first published in the IIJNM publication The Observer, on Mar 15, 2016. The Observer is the work of print journalism students who report exclusive news stories from Bangalore and the state of Karnataka. Find the issues here.
One in ten tweets by Rahul Gandhi mention Prime Minister Modi, whereas Modi himself has mentioned the Congress vice-president only twice. The only two times Modi mentioned Gandhi involved birthday wishes of the two leaders.
Rahul Gandhi’s office joined Twitter in May 2015, and has tweeted 1,276 times until the cut-off date for the analysis, March 15, 2016. In comparison, the Prime Minister tweeted 2,492 times during the same period. These numbers do not include retweets.
While 121 tweets by @officeofRG refer to Modi, there are another 39 that mention the NDA government, BJP or RSS in some manner.
The tweets about Modi include both English and Hindi tweets that refer to him by his name or as the Prime Minister or Pradhanmantri.
Out of the 39 tweets about the ruling party and government, only one had a positive tone to it. That tweet was posted after finance minister Arun Jaitley announced tax rebate on Braille paper in the latest union budget. Gandhi said that the decision was made on his request.
Another topic used by Gandhi frequently in his tweets is him meeting marginalized groups or demonstrators. The number of such tweets about Gandhi meeting farmers, students, protesters and other such groups was 77 – about one in 20 tweets.
A recent analysis by researchers in University of Michigan had shown trends of topics referred to by Modi in his tweets. The analysis from the period February 2009 to February 2015 showed that while Modi mentioned “Hindutva” 140 times leading up to 2012 Gujarat assembly elections, he used the word only 12 times in the phase leading up to 2014 general elections. In the latter period however, he talked about “development” 63 times. The analysis was published by Economic and Political Weekly earlier this month.
The University of Michigan analysis had also shown that as Prime Minister, from May 2014 to February 2015, Modi mentioned “development” in 57 tweets. In the analysis of Gandhi’s tweets, however, done by Team Observer, Rahul Gandhi referred to development only 15 times since he joined Twitter in May 2015.
In other data we collected, Gandhi made references to women or women empowerment, ten times, and he mentioned farmers in 41 tweets.
Tweets show a spike in the weeks during Bihar elections and results last year. While Rahul Gandhi posted just 97 tweets in September, the number grew to 181 in November, including 80 in the first nine days of the month.
The election results were declared on November 9. Tweets during October were often announcements of election rallies in Bihar.