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As India gasped for air at the peak of its COVID-19 devastation, its leader appeared to advise his people to just breathe normally.

The instructions, a bit of yoga advice for the stressed, came from one of the many social media accounts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has used powerful oratory and digital savvy to become India’s most dominant leader in decades. But the tweet showed how India’s master of public perception has increasingly struggled to get his message across, exposing the limits of his ability to control the narrative.

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