National

Meet India’s spoof PM of an Alt Sarkar on Twitter

The ‘PM’ and her 17 cabinet ministers do a deep dive into their portfolios to study the real issues faced by the sector, and propose solutions for them in policy notes  

I’m chatting with the Prime Minister on WhatsApp, about everything from cabinet selections to textile policies. If that sounds like a parallel universe, let’s say it almost is. Vidyut Gore is the leader of this Alt Sarkar (government in Hindi), and this exists on Twitter. “It all started as a joke [in mid August] when someone tweeted ‘Vidyut for PM’ [in the middle of a conversation about snakes]. So I claimed a ‘vast surge’ in my popularity and asked people to vote,” she says. After a week-long poll, she won 86% votes out of over 3,000 responses, comfortably beating the incumbent.

Even before the poll concluded, people started commenting on the results, suggesting that she announce a cabinet. Things snowballed from there, and by the time the poll ended, “several people were already in and preparing acceptance speeches for the swearing in”. Gore put to use @Fek_le and fekle.in — “a spoof site I’d created and run for a while, but which was more like a blog with occasional posts and nothing in recent years” — and the government set up was complete.

Wishlist for democracy

What’s interesting is that the ‘PM’ and her 17 cabinet ministers — who come from across the country — are not just tweeting about what they think the government should be doing. Instead, they do a deep dive into the portfolio to study the real issues faced by the sector, and propose solutions for them in policy notes. These are discussed on Slack (a messaging app similar to WhatsApp), and are put out as Twitter threads. “We do the things we wish the government did and undo those we wish they didn’t do,” says Gore, adding, “On a serious note, I think the purpose is to remind people that what we are seeing in the news isn’t really what a government is supposed to do.”

It also allows them to play with ideas like legalising the sex industry, for example. This includes the setting up of a temporary Inter-Ministerial Department of Sexual Affairs, and providing shelter, protection and rehabilitation for those who have been forced into prostitution.

Alt Minister of Textiles, Kirti Deolekar, suggests a single GST rate of 12% across categories, pricing cotton at international rates and updated labour laws to revive the ailing handloom industry. Scharada Dubey’s Alt Culture Ministry hopes to combat fake news “that has led to hate, aggression and unhappiness around us”. For those not on the micro-blogging platform, all speeches are available on the site — and makes for interesting reading.

Inclusive ideas

Alt Sarkar has also spawned a whole new sub-section of handles, which are not associated directly with the team — there is an Alt Opposition, Alt Citizens, Alt Media, Alt NIA, among others. Gore’s guess is that those who did not receive portfolios created their own to engage with this online movement.

While Twitter can be an insular echo chamber where we follow and are followed by people who share similar ideals, the team has trolls to thank for going beyond this circle. Gore says, “I think Alt Sarkar broke through to the Right Wing quite a bit. That was the unintended side effect of trying to troll us. They spread our ideas to a new audience, who did not find [our ideas] that bad.”

Follow @Fek_le on Twitter and visit fekle.in.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 4:40:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/meet-indias-spoof-pm/article29416638.ece

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