National Lampoon

Netizens have found a new source for their fix of political satire: They get it on Twitter. The recent cabinet reshuffle was a case in point. While rest of India debated over who was going out and who was coming in, those on the microblog service were enjoying a few chuckles. They were lapping up the tweets of Dr Yum Yum Singh and Sonia Gaxdhi – satirical profiles of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Congress chief Sonia Gandhi that lampooned political absurdities.

Just some time before the reshuffle, Yum Yum Singh tweeted “Dear @Sonia-GaXdhi No matter how much I reshuffle, the same jokers turn up!” much to the delight of his followers who number in the thousands.

“SoniaGaxdhi and DrYumYumSingh give me the tickles,” says Gagandeep Sapra, CEO of IT firm System3. “The satire on these accounts makes for an interesting and insightful, but light-hearted read.”

But Yum Yum Singh and GaXdhi are not the only faux accounts modelled after desi politicians on Twitter. Apart from the big two, there are several accounts targeted at Rahul Gandhi. And there is one named Raja DiggVijay Singh for, well, Digvijay Singh.

With UPA in power – it seems – most of the spoofs are targeted at its leaders, and for now, at least, BJP leaders have escaped the lampooners.

The account for J_Jayalalitha claims she is “the only hope for TN in 2011” while an account called MuuKaa has been created as a spoof for DMK leader K Karunanidhi.

Of course, the quality of satire varies from personality to personality.

“Not all spoof accounts are funny; some of these guys resort to cheap antics. Tweets from Raja DiggVijay’s, and those targeting Rahul Gandhi are bland,” avers Tarun Sreevats, an advertising professional who has been on Twitter since 2008.
“But tweets coming from Dr Yum Yum Singh and Sonia Gaxdhi can make for a few good laughs,” he says.

A look at Yum Yum Singh’s Twitter profile – where he claims to be “in her majesty’s service” – reveals how popular he is among his countrymen. Singh is followed by over 6,300 users.

Sonia Gaxdhi’s account is followed by over 3,000 members.

But the true significance of the account’s reach is not in the numbers. It’s in the quality of followers and how well connected they are. According to Klout, a website that measures influence of Twitter users, Yum Yum Singh scores 70 point; just one point shy of what Shashi Tharoor, the most widely followed Indian politician, scores.

Besides, Yum Yum Singh has been retweeted over 5,000 times. An impressive figure when you consider that the number of posts on the account are a little over 2,500. This means that – on an average – each of his tweet is retweeted at least twice.
In a country like India where being politically correct always scores over political satire, Twitter characters such as Yum Yum Singh and Sonia GaXdhi are a rarity. But Shrivats fear that as they get more popular, real leaders may not find the antics too amusing.

Gagandeep, however, is confident that Yum Yum Singh and the likes of him are here to stay. “The real leaders can’t do much about it. The internet is dependent on noncensorship… However, anything that is reckless, against the society norms, and hurts public sentiment is avoided and will be shut down by most service providers, but this is just humour… A crackdown on these accounts could also have a bad effect politically,” he says.

“Some leaders may not like it, but they just have to live with it. It’s all for a laugh and people like Yum Yum Singh are doing a great job of it. Now I’d like to see our politicians do their job, which is running the country effectively.”

The above article is authored by @Javed Anwer in the Times of India, Mumbai Edition on Sunday 30th Janaury 2011. The article is carried here as it carried a few comments by me.