Did Prime Minister Narendra Modi thank fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi on Twitter for participating in his new vigilance campaign against corruption? Not really, but an automated “thank you” tweet from the Prime Minister’s account to a Nirav Modi parody account elicited laughter and some confusion among social media users.

On Saturday morning, the Prime Minister launched a campaign called #MainBhiChowkidar (I am a watchman too), with a tweet claiming, “Your chowkidar is standing firm and serving the nation”, and urging all Indians to be watchmen against corruption and other social evils.

The campaign appeared to be a jibe at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has often used the phrase “chowkidar chor hai” (the watchman is a thief) as a taunt to the prime minister while referring to the controversial Rafale jet deal.

Within hours of Modi’s tweet, #MainBhiChowkidar became the top trending hashtag on Twitter globally.

In order to boost the campaign, the prime minister’s twitter handle began sending out automated “thank you” tweets to every Twitter handle that had used the #MainBhiChowkidar hashtag. While many Twitter users expressed joy at receiving what seemed like a personalised message from Narendra Modi, the automated messages also reached a host of parody accounts and accounts of people that are known to be critical of the prime minister or his party.

One of those accounts was @niiravmodi, a parody account named after Nirav Modi, the business tycoon who is currently wanted in India for defrauding the Punjab National Bank of over Rs 13,000 crore.

A screenshot of the automated personalised tweet that the Prime Minister's Twitter handle sent out to a Nirav Modi parody account.
A screenshot of the automated personalised tweet that the Prime Minister's Twitter handle sent out to a Nirav Modi parody account.

Nirav Modi is currently living in the United Kingdom. While the Indian government has been urging United Kingdom’s Interpol to arrest Nirav Modi, British authorities recently claimed that the Indian government had not responded to three requests for more information about the diamond merchant.

As Twitter users began to notice the tweet sent to @niiravmodi, some were initially confused and did not realise that the “thank you” tweets were an automated response (or that @niiravmodi is a parody account).

Recognising the goof-up, the Prime Minister’s handle soon deleted the tweet to @niiravmodi. But screenshots of the tweet were still in circulation, and the parody account was the first to mock the prime minister for it, with a tweet asking, “Sir, should I assume you have waived the [bank] loan?”

The trolling continued, with some people cheekily urging others not to share screen shots of the deleted tweet on any social media platform, and one Twitter user claiming that “the king is blind”.

One Twitter user could not help listing the many corruption-tainted businessmen currently wanted by India, including liquor baron Vijay Mallya and former chairman of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi.

Of course, Twitter users also made it a point to screenshot the other parody handles that got auto-thanked by the prime minister. These include handles like @NehruKiGaltiHai (It’s Nehru’s fault), @ModiLeDubega (Modi will drown us) and @AmbaniKaChela (Ambani’s sidekick).