Mumbai: Many an unkind word has been said about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to join the twitterati earlier this week, but this just shows how out of touch his critics are with the real mood in the virtual world.
His tweets so far may not have gone beyond soporific phrases like “Heartiest congratulations to all of you on Republic Day” or “You make us all proud” to bravery award winners, but this is just plain old envy in 140 characters.
For all of you who believe MMS (Manmohan Singh) is a loser, here’s the surprise: in three days, he has managed 23,968 followers. Admit it, you thought the only people who loved Mannu were a handful of family members and friend Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
And just in case you think that’s no great shakes compared to Barkha Dutt’s 4,71,443 at last count, here’s the kicker: at the rate MMS’ following is growing, by the time the next election looms he will have six million people following him. Enough to elect him from six Lok Sabha seats simultaneously. And you thought he had to head all the way to Assam to get into the Rajya Sabha.
Clearly, MMS is on a comeback trail in alliance with the social media. He just needs to add a Facebook account and half of India will seek to be his friend.
Whoever said Manmohan Singh is an over-rated economist and an underrated politician sure got it exactly right. His government’s budget deficit is growing as fast as his Twitter following. It may not be what the country needs, but who can argue with that kind of following?
But we have a word of advice to his Twitter advisers Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterji and Media Adviser Pankaj Pachauri: the rise of clones.
It’s not yet an epidemic, but its heading there. Already, MMS’s Twitter handle @PMOIndia has two lookalikes, both with the very same picture of him as in his official page. Both of them are having a ball at Manmohan’s expense.
One is called PMOlndia. Look closely, and in sans serif type, it is actually PMOlndia with a lower case ‘l’ instead of ‘I’ after PMO. Fooled? And PMOlndia has already had a go with this tweet on MMS: “Teacher: What would you like to achieve when you grow up? Me: I just want a chair in the first row of parliament.”
PMOlndia’s followers? 171 and growing, not including the PMO itself. They will need to follow him to find out what he is upto.
Stronger competition is looming from Clone 2, who is easier to detect. His handle: @PM0India. Look closely, and you will notice that the ‘O’ in PM0 is really a zero masquerading as an O.
Vastly more interesting that the stuff dished out by Pachauri & Co, PM0india is tweeting for all he is worth. Here’s one: “Twitter sent me a mail saying someone tried to hack my account. Sibalji was right about Advaniji”
Another one takes a potshot at Digvijaya Singh. “Shri Digvijay Singhji has complained about Vande Mataram trending on Twitter. PMO has sent a notice to Twitter.” This one clearly is from a Sangh parivar follower.
Or try this one: “Just checked my followers’ list. Mamata Di is still not there. But don't worry, government is stable.”
Sonia and Rahul don’t fail to figure in PM0india’s tweets: “Rahulji met me this morning and complained about cold in Delhi. Our office will look into this.” The unkindest one was reserved for Sonia. The tweet read: “Prime Minister wins Bravery Award for not following Sonia Gandhi on Twitter.”
PM0india’s followers: 403, and swelling. Messrs Pulok and Pachauri have their work cut out for them to sort out the real MMS from the fakes. The fakes, though, are more interesting for now.
But the big worries could start later if the PM’s main internal challengers in the UPA start getting the same idea. What if Pranab Mukherjee starts tweeting his Union budget or P Chidambaram his opinion on Naxal strategy?
The PM might still have an ace up his sleeve: he could ask Kapil Sibal to take these objectionable materials down.
A sobering thought: popularity in 140 characters is a great thing. But what matters is the popularity of the real-life character in whose name the tweets are being sent.
PS: When I started writing this, the PMO had 23,968 followers. By the time I finished, there were 24,188.