Manmohan Singh goes on Twitter, gets 13,000 followers on Day 1

NEW DELHI - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh started a Twitter account late on Monday in a bid to inform people about the work done by his office.

He joins 62 other leaders across the globe who have taken to tweeting.

They include US President Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and the chattiest of the lot Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela.

Obama has garnered 12 million followers so far.

On Day 1 of Singh's debut, his twitter account, @PMOIndia, attracted 13,000 followers.

It will be handed by his communications team, now headed by Pankaj Pachauri, a former television anchor.

PMO stands for the Prime Minister's Office.

Within hours of opening the account late on Monday, Singh had tweeted thrice.

Singh has often been criticised for being inaccessible to the media.

Unlike President Obama and other media-savvy global leaders, he rarely interacts with the media or holds press conferences.

A good many of his well-intentioned schemes have failed to get popular support because of his and his government's inability to reach out to the people through the media to explain their significance.

Many pieces of legislation and economic reforms proposed by Singh have floundered on the floor of Parliament, mostly because Singh, his ministers and officials have not been able to "sell" them even to parliamentarians belong to the Congress Party and its allies in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), let alone the opposition MPs.

Sources in the beleaguered PMO say a lot of work gets done in the prime minister's office.

Singh makes 30-45 trips in a year, and delivers dozens of poorly written speeches in a borning fashion.

There are 350 television news channels hungry for hot and exclusive stories, and several thousand newspapers in India, most of them independent and privately owned.

The obvious lack of proper communication skills within the UPA dispensation has been getting it a bad press ever since the regime returned to power in the 2009 general election.

In recent weeks, Singh and his colleagues and officials seem to have realised this shortcoming.

So off went Harish Khare, his media advisor, and in came Pankaj Pachauri, a journalist with years of experience in news television.

Putting PMOIndia on Twitter appears to be his idea.

Singh also got a proactive civil servant, Pulot Chatterjee, as principal secretary in the PMO.

Chatterjee, who has worked with Singh and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi for several years, returned from a stint in the World Bank in Washington and rejoined the PMO.

He is now making serious efforts to put some life into the moribund PMO.

Chatterjee wants to make the PMO the centre of action once again, just as it used to be when stalwarts like PC Alexander and Brajesh Mishra headed the institution during the regimes of Indira Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee, respectively, as prime ministers.

PMO officials say all the work being done and important decisions taken in their office do not get reflected properly, and not going out to the people.

They hope the Twitter account will help in disseminating all this information.

It will also help Singh to reach out to the social media-savvy young, who account for nearly half of India's 1,234-million people

Singh may also send out personal tweets under his own signature in the future.

His first tweet was a remark he made while meeting young recipients of a bravery award here. "You make all of us proud," he tweeted.

A subsequent Tweet carried a photograph of his with the recipients of the award.

Earlier, Singh's newly-appointed communications advisor Pachauri tweeted that the prime minister's office "is now on Twitter... Thank you."