The Omar connect: Tweeting through troubles big and small

By Sarwar Kashani, IANS
Thursday, February 10, 2011

SRINAGAR - “Lunch from Krishna Dhaba - kaddi chawal and some rajma - mmmmmmmmmmmm.” That’s a tweet from none other than Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who is opening a window to his own life, shooting off opinions on terrorism and even promising to get transformers fixed - on microblogging site Twitter.

Since Abdullah entered the world of twitterati Jan 9 this year, he has notched up a following of nearly 6,000 on the site and tweeted nearly 800 messages, in restricted phrases as necessitated by the 140-character limit of the medium.

In the process, the 40-year-old Kashmiri leader, born and educated abroad, could be breaking a barrier that keeps many rulers away from his people, especially in a strife-torn, volatile state like Kashmir.

His aides told IANS that Abdullah reads almost every post sent to him and personally responds to as many as he can.

A user wrote to him seeking his intervention about an electricity problem in his area: “Bilal colony (i m gna remind u f my clny evry 5 mins) trnsfrmr prblm (Sic)”.

Omar replied: “What’s the problem?”

The user shot back: “Sir, plz, plz no big gum..jst a 12th standard stdt, plz…dnt let my youth ruin… my p.c doesnt evn wrk n 10 volts.”

Abdullah wrote: “Give me the details (of) the area/colony. I’ll have the Deptt take a look ASAP.”

It’s not known yet if the electricity problem was solved, especially as Kashmir is a power-starved state, but the chief minister’s personal touch may have made a difference.

Sometimes his daily schedule and even cabinet decisions are found on his posts - even before the official public relations department announces them!

On Wednesday, he announced a major decision on Twitter: “Cabinet clears Panchayat Elections for 3-tier Panchayat structure in the state.”

Politicians the world over have been using Twitter and other social networking sites like Facebook to connect with people. In India, it has had its share of controversy.

Former minister of external affairs Shashi Tharoor earned himself the nickname of Twitteroor for his frequent and contentious posts on the site. Tharoor annoyed some with his comments, though he won a large following - at 950,000 - on the site.

Abdullah’s Twitter stint has so far been smooth even though at nearly 6,000 followers it’s just a handful compared to Tharoor.

The state has a literacy rate of around 55 percent and the masses are yet to get familiarised with the internet. But among the young, the medium is becoming popular by the day, earning praise for Abdullah.

“Why be a cynic? If he is at least interacting and answering queries, it is a good sign. After all, aren’t we the same people who accused Omar (Abdullah) of being out of touch with his own people because he was born and brought up outside,” Tariq Rafiq Khan, an avid Twitter user, told IANS.

He even interacts with friends from Bollywood on the site. So when actor Rahul Bose posted about his “three days off in Colombo” and sought “any suggestions”, Abdullah tweeted, “go scuba diving. Some amazing sites around Colombo”.

And he has just as much advice for the common man.

When a person planning to visit Kashmir in May-June wanted an “assurance” on whether the state was “safe for tourist, family, kids”, Abdullah replied: “I can’t hand out assurances but it’s no less safe (than) other tourist destinations in India.”

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at

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