A tasteful “bye bye” shot of Manmohan Singh and his wife with their personal staff is up on www.twitter.com/pmoindia.
This may well be among the last 2-3 tweets that the outgoing Prime Minister’s social media handlers will send out to the 1.22 million of us, who persist on following despite the drab and often asinine content.
That reminds me of the infamous tweet on September 7, 2013: “I would be happy to work for the Congress Party under the leadership of Mr Rahul Gandhi-PM.”
For that reason alone, if not the fact that Narendra Modi already has 4.01 million follows on his verified Twitter handle, the incoming PM may want the past tweets cleaned up, if not disown the @pmoindia handle altogether.
Semantics apart, can a change of “residence” in India’s social-media leadership, lead to meaningful communication with the citizen?
I hope it does, because so far all we’ve had has been bad planning and illiteracy of history.
As the example above may have convinced you, so far even the official handle of the Prime Minister of India ended up being a shameful confirmation of the curious power-sharing arrangement between the Gandhi Family and their Regent.
The point in this column isn’t merely to flag a change in twitter guard – I know for a fact that #Namo spends considerable time and energy in thinking through what his handle must say or listen to.
The burden of my song is how the at least three things have to be done differently:
1. Technocrats and career civil servants must be given a clear message that ineptitude and inaction can no longer be buried in piles of paper. So, making things truly transparent, any complaint therefore on the new PM’s social media handle, or on any of the other movers and shakers in the new government, will be treated with seriousness and respect. Rather than treating Twitter merely as an amplification medium as Manmohan Singh’s boys did, I hope that thorough follow through is initiated and complaints redressed and closed. This can spread good cheers which we in the country need quite desperately.
2. Related, ministers and civil servants must be explained that the new PM’s social media strategy isn’t a cosmetic personal obsession. Instead, it is one of the crucial pieces in enlarging his appeal and the air of decisiveness and positivity that Manmohan failed so spectacularly in conveying. Before that, quick orientation sessions and seminars are a must – just so that overenthusiasm and illiteracy don’t lead to unfortunate results. Also, rather than halting steps that the ministry of external affairs and ministry of information and broadcasting have taken so far, #Namo could have a proper Office of Public Diplomacy which improves upon learnings that his team in Gujarat and, say, the US http://www.state.gov/r/ have already made.
3. Finally, a quick word on social media as a tool for connecting with the citizen. Embracing this is crucial for reaping the demographic dividend particularly with the onset of 4-G telephony. Probationers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration, Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy, National Academy of Direct Taxes, and the Sardar Vallabbhai Patel National Police Academy should be weaved in just so that they emerge with an inquisitive mind on the subject, not merely with personal facebook pages as I discovered in a talk to a batch of probationers some months back.
So, over to a rejigged and rocking @PMOINdia handle – a harbinger of optimism and two-way communication, and, hopefully, some personally signed, “NM” too!
The columnist works at the intersect of media, regulation and strategy on RIL. The views are personal. Tweets @therohitbansal