#BBCtrending: Prime Minister of India for half an hour
- 21 May 2014
Meet the 19-year-old who inadvertently grabbed the "Prime Minister of India" Twitter handle - the same one India's top leaders are now tussling over.
Qaiser Ali says he still doesn't understand how it happened. The teenager from Lucknow in India just wanted to give his Twitter handle a better name. "I don't know how but it came into my mind to check PMO [Prime Minister's Office] of India, and when I realised it was available, I saved it for myself," he told BBC Trending.
Although he didn't realise it at the time, Ali had just stepped into the middle of #Handlegate - a serious social media spat between the offices of India's soon-to-be sworn in leader, Narendra Modi, and the country's outgoing Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
Manmohan Singh started the @PMOIndia Twitter account, which grew to more than a million followers. But as he left office, his team decided not to simply hand the account over. Instead they renamed and archived the Twitter handle - @PMOIndia was turned into @PMOIndiaArchive, taking the million plus followers with it. Narendra Modi's party, the BJP, which has just won the elections, criticised the move saying the Twitter account was a "national asset".
As for Qaiser Ali, the recent high school graduate, his tenure as @PMOIndia turned out to be brief. Without any explanation, after half an hour his Twitter handle reverted to its previous name. Which actually came as a relief: "I was shocked, honoured, but also scared. I'm just a 19-year-old kid from India, and this is a government matter. When they found out, my parents scolded me and told me to apologise to all the people of India," he says." (He said sorry immediately).
Why was Qaiser Ali able to grab the account name at all? It seems he happened to sign up for it in the brief window between when the official account name was changed, and the new @PMOIndia handle was created. The former prime minister's communications advisor Pankaj Pachauri, in a series of tweets and an online statement defended the move, saying the @PMOIndia handle would still be available to the new prime minister's office and that it was all within the law. Twitter says it does not comment on individual accounts and it is not clear who is now controlling @PMOIndia. The account has 15,000 followers, though it has yet to send its first tweet. Despite his brief but meteoric rise in Indian politics, Qaiser Ali says he has no intention to pursue a career in public office.
Reporting by Estelle Doyle
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