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Reality check for bhakts: Narendra Modi is not TIME's Person of the Year

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: Fri, 10 Feb 2017 01:37:00 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's followers do not need much reason to sing praises for their 56-inch chested leader. So when he receives an award, their praise and adulation for their chosen one knows no bounds. Even when it's a fake UNESCO title awarded by WhatsApp rumour mongers:

So when he actually wins something, like the TIME Magazine Person of the Year reader's poll he won today, it's no surprise that it's heralded as an occasion for celebration:

All of bhaktdom was cheering. Modi bhai was TIME Magazine's 'Person of the Year'! Soon, as with all things related to our Fearless Leader, it began to trend on Twitter.

It truly was a special occasion, as one Modi cheerleader pointed out:

Even a newspaper as respectable as The Financial Times ran with the headline, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi wins TIME magazine's 'Person of the Year".

Mitron, India had finally made it! Except, no. Not really. And let me tell you why.

This was just a reader's poll

Regardless of the earnestness with which his followers have reported the news, Narendra Modi is not TIME magazine's 'Person of the Year'. Or not yet, anyway. He did win, but what he won was an online poll open to readers.

WWE wrestler Mick Foley was the reader's poll's first winner. Such an illustrious choice!

The winner doesn't get a prize or a spot on the TIME cover. Heck, they don't even get a cake. What they do get is a little more visibility than normal, which is fine, but nothing to really write home about. After all, the poll's first real winner was WWE star, Mick Foley (With 50% of the vote, far more than Modi's 18%).

While Foley was disqualified because the magazine wanted to award more prestigious names, the fallibility of online polling has always been a major issue.

This is why the real Person of the Year is determined by the magazine's editors and not fanboys and fangirls worldwide.

Online polls are easy to manipulate

In 2014 alone, the ease with which these polls could be manipulated was illustrated by TIME's own TIME 100 list. The list, which was open to online voting, saw Arvind Kejriwal and Narendra Modi emerge as the two most influential men in the world. This, at a time when Kejriwal was not Delhi CM and Modi was still campaigning for PM.

Most of Modi's votes in a similar TIME poll in 2014, over 90%, were proven to be fake.

Modi had apparently finished first with 50,70,865 votes. Kejriwal followed with 31,68,259 votes. However, when TIME double checked, they found that most of the votes for both candidates were fake - the result of either bots, duplicate votes or bought votes.

Once the dust had settled, each candidate was left with a fraction of their original votes - Kejriwal with 2,61,114 and Modi with 1,64,572.

Since then, online poll manipulation has only gotten easier thanks to proxy servers and technology. His online team is also wiser about scamming TIME than they were 2 years ago. Who's to say the poll wasn't manipulated this time around? Modi's online cohorts certainly have a dubious track record on the issue.

This isn't a vote on quality

While Modi's fans think such a vote is an indication of Modi's stellar leadership, that is far from the truth. The online reader's poll is by no means a vote on quality. The poll, like the final award, calls for readers to decide "who has most influenced the news and our world in the past year, for good or ill".

Modi's supporters are free to use the poll to celebrate, that doesn't mean he won for being a great leader.

Hence, while Modi's supporters are free to use the poll as a stamp of approval, his detractors are equally entitled to use it as proof of how his mismanagement has kept him in the news for the wrong reasons.

After all, hundreds of millions of Indians are currently reeling from his "demonetisation" debacle, perhaps they voted for him while waiting in ATM lines. After all, if beggars are using swipe machines, surely everyone waiting in ATM lines has 3G and reads TIME, right?

First published: 5 December 2016, 10:31 IST
 
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.

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