Teen becomes India's prime minister for a half hour — on Twitter

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News
Outgoing Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh leaves after paying homage to former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on his death anniversary at his memorial, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Rajiv Gandhi was killed by an ethnic Tamil suicide bomber in May 1991 as he campaigned for a return to the post of prime minister. He was 47 years old. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)
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Outgoing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (Manish Swarup/AP)

A teenage Twitter user in India unwittingly found himself in the middle of a contentious political battle over a Twitter handle when he registered the account of the vacated prime minister's office for himself.

Qaiser Ali, a 19-year-old who tweets as @IAmQaiserAli, told the BBC he was simply searching for a better name when he discovered @PMOIndia was not registered.

"I don't know how but it came into my mind to check PMO of India," said Ali, who lives in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state. "When I realized it was available, I saved it for myself."

Manmohan Singh, the country's outgoing prime minister, originally launched @PMOIndia in 2012, gathering more than 1 million followers. When Singh was preparing to leave office earlier this month, his team decided to archive the tweets, changing the name to the @PMOIndiaArchive and leaving @PMOIndia — albeit briefly — up for grabs.

Narendra Modi, the incoming prime minister, criticized Singh for his handle-handling, calling the account a "national asset." (A spokesman for Singh said it was not his intention to discard a valuable piece of digital real estate, simply to archive the tweets.)

According to the BBC, Ali's tenure as @PMOIndia was brief. "Without any explanation, after half an hour his Twitter handle reverted to its previous name," the news service said.

"I was shocked, honored, but also scared," Ali said. "I'm just a 19-year-old kid from India, and this is a government matter."

And when his parents found out his role in "Handlegate," they weren't happy. "When they found out, [they] scolded me and told me to apologize to all the people of India," Ali said.

He did:

It's not entirely clear who is now controlling the @PMOIndia handle. The account, with more than 20,000 followers, is live, but has yet to issue a tweet.

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