India's Prime Minister Modi in 29-tweet pre-election blitz

In rapid-fire tweets Modi tagged Bollywood stars, cricketers and political rivals in bid to increase voter turnout.

     India's 900 million voters will cast their ballots between April 11 and May 19 [Jagadeesh NV/EPA]
    India's 900 million voters will cast their ballots between April 11 and May 19 [Jagadeesh NV/EPA]

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a charm offensive on Twitter where he reached out to a cross-section of celebrities, that included his political rivals, and urged them to help increase voter turnout in the world's largest democratic exercise.

    In 29 rapid-fire tweets early on Wednesday morning, Modi tagged Bollywood stars, cricketers, a news anchor as well as Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee and Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Mayawati.

    Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have played a pioneering role in the use of social media for electioneering in India. Their near-total dominance on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp gave them an edge over their opponents in the 2014 elections which they won by a huge margin.

    In his tweet to the opposition leaders, Modi, who has 46.3 million followers on Twitter, said, "A high turnout augurs well for our democratic fabric."

    In his tweet to Bollywood stars Singh and Kaushal, Modi picked dialogues from their hit movies Gully Boy and Uri: The Surgical Strike and said they could motivate youngsters to use their voting right.

    "It is time to tell them (youngsters): Apna Time Aa Gaya Hai (our time has come) and that it is time to turn up with high Josh (zeal) to a voting centre near you."

    Despite remaining popular, Modi faces a challenge to repeat the 2014 feat when India's 900 million voters cast ballots between April 11 and May 19.

    The opposition says Modi's flagship policies have failed to produce promised jobs, while thousands of debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide in recent years.

    His party, however, appears to have gained ground after India launched air attacks on Pakistan last month in response to a suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian troops in the Pulwama town of Indian-administered Kashmir.

    The recent conflagration with Pakistan also marked a peak in the war of words between the ruling party and its detractors, with opposition leaders accusing Modi's government of mishandling the country's internal security.

    Modi's tweets on Wednesday were the first bipartisan gesture from him since campaigning for the general election started.

    Results from the election are due on May 23.

    SOURCE: AFP news agency