Mediatized Populisms| Innuendo as Outreach: @narendramodi and the Use of Political Irony on Twitter

Joyojeet Pal, Priyank Chandra, Padma Chirumamilla, Vaishnav Kameswaran, Andre Gonawela, Udit Thawani, Pritika Dasgupta


Our analysis of tweets from @narendramodi demonstrates how the Indian prime minister used political irony, enacted through sarcasm and wordplay, to refashion his political style and practice into a more broadly appealing populist ethic. We deconstruct confrontational Twitter messages laced with innuendo to explore the use of language as a means of political self-representation. Modi’s use of irony provides a form of political spectacle and demonstrably resonates on social media, as quantified by the high retweeting of his sarcastically worded messages. We identify three rhetorical strategies in these tweets: (1) appeals to the base through the use of popular idiom, (2) creation of a shared cognitive environment to allow followers in on inside jokes and a means of affiliating with the leader, and (3) the performance of righteousness in underlining the leader’s use of wit and restraint. We argue that the use of political irony in these tweets must be seen as part of a longer-term performative effort to recast Modi’s political image from a regional strongman into a sophisticated communicator.


Twitter, India, Narendra Modi, sarcasm, irony, populism

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