Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The curious case of people followed by the Prime Minister of India

Can you imagine President Obama following a Twitter handle that routinely peddles hate, spreads rumors and abuses others online? No.

Can you imagine Prime Minister Modi following such a Twitter handle? There is nothing to imagine here. He follows several.

Amitesh Singh was just another “proud” nationalist Twitter troll who spewed choicest abuses to anyone who didn’t agree with his world view. He projected himself as a BJP youth leader and also claimed to be related to a BJP politician. His biggest claim to fame however was to be followed by Narendra Modi, the honorable Prime Minister of India. It was no doubt a source of great pride for a nineteen year old to be followed by the Prime Minister of a country of 1.2 billion people. 
Amitesh’s hot headed abusive tweets fitted his profile well and were really no surprise to anyone till one day he tweeted a call to “kill 3000 Muslims” in response to a rumor that was doing rounds on the internet. What followed was a series of events, including his apology, his arrest and a denial from BJP that he was associated with them. The only fact that remained was that he was one of the select few followed by Narendra Modi.

Narendra Modi has 16 million followers. That is an impressive number by any standards. Out of these 16 million, he chooses to follow around 1200 people back. Many of these are government handles, ministers, heads of states and other such profiles you would expect the Prime Minister of a country to follow. However, a handful of the 1200 are profiles that will make you squirm. Some of these are highly abusive, while others are a source of rumors & hate messages.
So why does the Prime Minister of India follow such people? There are many theories around it. One school of thought believes that his social media team is behind this and Modi is not really aware that his handle follows such profiles. The other school believes that Modi is indeed aware and these represent like-minded individuals that are part of his core support group.

I would like to believe the former but I am reminded time and again by fellow twitterati that this is not the case. He has personally met many of these individuals in specially organized events. All of them flaunt the mandatory selfie with him, stating, “Proud to be followed by Narendra Modi”.

A recent RTI has confirmed that Modi is indeed very social media savvy and manages his own twitter account. This settles all speculation about the handles he follows.

“How can Narendra Modi be responsible for the tweets of people he follows?”  ask many of his supporters. None of us are responsible for the tweets of our followers. But hey, he is the Prime Minister of the country and he has handpicked this select group to follow. They draw inspiration from the fact that he follows them and in the mind of any observer, he condones and supports their online behavior.
“Who are you to tell the Prime Minister who to follow?” ask his supporters. I absolutely agree. It is his choice. He is free to follow anyone he likes, whether they be abusers, hateful profiles, rumor mongers or riot instigators. As a citizen of India I would be happier if he didn’t follow these people, but I respect his choice. The voters also have a choice which they will exercise at the right time.