NEW DELHI — As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wraps up his first year on the job, one thing is clear: He understands the power of a good photo.
A selfie with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Enveloping President Barack Obama in a tight bear hug minutes after he landed in New Delhi. Sweeping the streets of the Indian capital with a broom to highlight his national cleanliness campaign. There's a talked-about photograph documenting just about every major moment of his first year as prime minister.
Modi's sartorial choices, meanwhile, are as well documented as his forays into international diplomacy. The flowing, colorful traditional turban he wore to make his first speech to mark India's Independence Day got as much attention as the fact that he decided to make the speech without the bulletproof enclosure that usually surrounds Indian prime ministers.
The pinstripes on the dark suit he wore as he sipped tea with Obama in New Delhi turned out to be his own name printed in tiny letters. The suit was estimated to have cost more than 1 million rupees ($16,000), but Modi sidestepped the negative publicity by auctioning the suit for a whopping $700,000 to raise money to clean the highly polluted Ganges river.
Modi understood the power of the media and a well-chosen image much before he became prime minister.
As chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, he managed the impossible — being in many places at the same time. Using hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, he dazzled voters by projecting a shockingly lifelike, three-dimensional holographic image of himself onto screens at election rallies in dozens of towns and villages.
Modi is also one of India's most social media-savvy politicians, and is active on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Instagram. He posts photographs on Flickr and Pinterest. Before his visit to China this month he even joined Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site.