Sushma Swaraj Is Changing How Indian Politicians Act On The Internet

Sushma Swaraj is no stranger to Twitter. She was one of its early adopters, having joined the platform all the way back in 2010. She tweets regularly, and has built a sizable audience – over 6.5 million people follow her updates. Today, she sent out the following tweet.

The External Affairs minister broke the news of her hospitalization directly on Twitter, straight to her audience. Years ago, the announcement would’ve been made by a harried staffer, presumably in front of a hospital. Or in a press conference with the media in full attendance. Forget several years ago – when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha was recently hospitalized, her health updates were shrouded in secrecy, and only given out at specific times by her party.

But Swaraj has been one of the politicians who’s made a seamless transition to the online world. Her Twitter account is her mouthpiece, and helps her disseminate updates to her audience. And these updates are straight from the horses’ mouth, instant, and without the interpretations of the press and pundits.

And Swaraj hasn’t only used her Twitter account to send out updates. Her account has also become a one-stop-shop for the resolution of grievances of ordinary Indians abroad. She’s instructed her team to immediately rescue a girl who was being held captive in South Africa, and helped out an Indian traveler who’d lost her passport while in Germany and had simply tweeted out to her. She and her team often respond to individual queries, like when a woman tweeted to her when she couldn’t get in touch with her husband after the Nepal earthquake, and she shows a sentimental side too – when a tweet about a man complaining that his wife couldn’t join him for their honeymoon because her passport hadn’t been processed went viral, she got the process expedited and got the passport issued in two days.

All this has won her several admirers online, and she makes sure her Twitter isn’t merely a collection of updates. Her current pinned tweet is a rare picture of her with her husband, taken at the Parliament premises. And it is this mix of personal tweets and useful information is what keeps people hooked to her updates, and keeps the followers rolling in. She might be 64, but she’s got the hang of the online medium like no other Indian politician.