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Politicos give in to tweet temptation

delhi Updated: Jun 03, 2009 00:02 IST
Swapnapriiya Manna
Swapnapriiya Manna
Hindustan Times
Meet netas @ Twitter

After experimenting with personal websites, Google ads, blogs and opening accounts on Orkut and Facebook -- Indian politicians, this general election, flocked to the new Web 2.0 phenomenon called Twitter. Grounded in reality these handful tech savvy netas tweeted to their hearts content, not to mobilize people in their constituency, but to create a real time intimate connect with their cyber fans.

Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. Twitter is biggest phenomenon since Facebook, recording a 2000% growth every week.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has 840 followers

Twitter was used most effectively by politicians on counting day - with the tag "#indiavotes09? being the number one topic on the trends list of the micro-blogging site. , It saw the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi and Shashi Tharoor updating their accounts regularly.

But now that the election mania is over, the MP's have been sworn in, followers of these politicians have been inundating the sites with various questions. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is clearly using Twitter (with 840 followers) to talk to a younger generation. Most of his posts are about educational issues or problems that students face. "The Gujarat government is ready to help Indian students in Australia," thunders one of his typical tweets.

Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand seems to be much more popular with more than 2,000 followers. His tweets are more personal and have an honest ring about them. "Second phase in full swing so tired…., "says one. In another, he thanks his supporters: "Sorry I haven't updated in a while, was a bit busy! Thanks for the votes and the support. The election results were quite pleasant :)." But he's recently suffered a "Twitterversy" where his account was hacked and is now offline. No doubt he will be back soon.

The new minister of state for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, too has a Twitter account and has been regularly posting interesting updates about his life as a Minister. His recent tweet read, "first dinner by EAM for diplomatic corps. back on a beat I thought i'd left when I quit the UN. But better food here! spoke French after yrs." Most people who follow him love the feeling of voyeuristic intimacy that comes from reading in real time the activities of an Indian politician.

Shashi Tharoor leads with 4,000 followers
" We thought of using cyberspace simply as a way of getting in touch with people and answer their questions on day to day basis," said Jacob Joseph, who looks after media co-ordination for Shashi Tharoor. He eventually installed Twitter on Tharoor's Blackberry. " We never thought of this as an election tool. This was done in the middle of the second phase of voting. Shashi has over 4,000 followers by now and he is very fond of what we now call 'Twitberry', said Jacob.

The trend is slowly catching up with other politicians too. "A new medium of communication is always an advantage. Twitter is fast becoming popular and seems more convenient too. My team has taken an initiative to put me on twitter as well," says Congress MP from South Mumbai Milind Deora.

And then there are those who haven't heard about this cool new thing yet. DUSU President, Nupur Sharma, who is too accustomed to talking over two phones at the same time, couldn't believe there could be a way so simple to mobilize people. "Are you telling me there will be no need to carry my laptop or ask my friends to help me sort out who to be friends with on Facebook or Orkut?," inquired an amused Nupur.