Anger in India after departing PM office resets Twitter account with 1.24m followers

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi (left), who will be the next prime minister of India, and India's President Pranab Mukherjee meet at India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on May 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi (left), who will be the next prime minister of India, and India's President Pranab Mukherjee meet at India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on May 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

NEW DELH (AFP) - A Twitter war erupted in India on Tuesday after the official prime minister handle was archived and its 1.24 million followers "transported" to the new account.

The team of departing premier Manmohan Singh reset the @PMOIndia account and renamed it @PMOIndiaArchive, angering the incoming Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by prime minister-designate Narendra Modi.

"The Twitter account @PMOIndia is a national digital asset. It is disgraceful, unethical and illegal the way the outgoing team has handled this account," BJP spokesman Meenakshi Lekhi told reporters in New Delhi.

The BJP said the old PMO account had 1.24 million followers, but they would now have to start from scratch because the account had been archived and followers "transported", instead of being officially handed over.

A new PMOIndia account on Twitter showed 4,411 followers.

This Twitter handle "is not a personal asset, it is a national asset," the BJP said.

Another BJP spokesman Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted that @PMOIndia was an "institutional handle" which should have continued "seamlessly".

Stung by criticism, Dr Singh's office released a statement defending its action. "All our official communications are being archived according to the Right To Information Act. Copyrights and control remain with the office," said communications director Pankaj Pachauri.

Mr Modi, who is extremely active on Twitter, has been sharing all the milestones in his election campaign journey with his 4.2 million followers. He is set to be sworn in as India's 14th Prime Minister next Monday after the BJP swept to power with the first parliamentary majority in 30 years at the end of a marathon general election.

The Congress party suffered its worst defeat ever, snaring just 44 seats out of 543 up for grabs against BJP's 282.

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