In December 2014, there was a scandal on the Indian internet. A miffed Subramanian Swamy of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) complained to Facebook and requested that a page of one Subramaniam Swamy be taken down. This Subramaniam Swamy was quite obviously a parody account, one that milked the politician’s reputation of being unabashedly Right wing. The satire was so persuasive that the posts of the parody Swamy were frequently mistaken as opinions of the real Swamy. So much so that Facebook accidentally deleted the complainant’s page.
“The intention was never to copy or confuse anyone that this page was Subramanian Swamy’s original account,” said the man who made the parody account in an email interview with Newslaundry. “Maybe the original was deleted as Mr Swamy’s page managed by his followers posted content which goes against the community standards prescribed by Facebook. The fact that Mr Swamy threatened Facebook also did not help the matter.”
From this scandal, a star was born: the wildly-popular Unofficial Subramaniam Swamy (USS) page, managed and maintained by someone who assiduously maintains his cover and is lovingly nicknamed SuSuSwamy by his fans. “Most of my fans came to know about my page after the incident,” said SuSuSwamy. His USS today has more than three and a half lakh followers.
Behind the page is a real-life person whose name is not Subramaniam Swamy and who guards his identity with great care. “My family isn’t aware about this page, nor do they follow politics,” he said. “But yes, few of my friends know that I run this page. Many are happy and encourage me to post more. But a few friends don’t want me to continue as they are worried about me.”
The reason for this concern is that in the past two years, USS has become a platform that’s watched by both everyday people as well as politicians and political party workers. With great exposure comes the need for great caution, and SuSuSwamy knows this well.
In real life, SuSuSwamy describes himself as “an average middle-class Indian, working hard for his living like many others in our country”. He’s 31, a professional who has a job that is unrelated to politics, and from a family with no political connections. Until the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he wasn’t even particularly interested in the bickering and politics that inform his Facebook page.
“Before 2014, I was unaware of the political situation in the country,” he told Newslaundry. “From social media, I started getting a dose of political happenings on a daily basis by following political pages and politicians on FB. Some of the pages were only criticising the government and many such pages cropped up during the 2014 general elections. This gave me an idea: why not start my own page? And thus USS was born in June 2014.”
He picked Swamy as his alter ego because “no other politician is able to match the sound bites given by Mr Swamy”.
Susu Swamy is actually politically neutral and he’s ready to mock any and every politician. Much of the fodder for his satire, however, has come from the BJP, its supporters and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“It’s just that Narendra Modi is the prime minister of the country and the buck stops with him,” SuSuSwamy explained. “His bhakts have created an environment of fear on social media and one needs to highlight the wrongdoings of his followers.”
Times Now’s Arnab Goswami is another recurring star. “Mainstream media is more about titillation than getting to the fact of the matter. Arnab goes a long way to do the same,” he said.
“One cannot make an informed opinion after watching his debate as he simply does not allow others to complete their views,” said SuSuSwamy. “I have had better debates in my college than what happens on his shows.”
In two years, USS has grown rapidly. On an average, USS has between 30 and 35 posts daily. SuSuSwamy said he doesn’t plan what’s going up and according to his stats, the average weekly traffic is between 80,00,000 – 85,00,000. “I never had an inkling that my page will also be a platform for politicians to take a dig at their rivals. It certainly makes me happy that I am a medium for positive changes in the country.”
“I started it as an idea and was not aware that it will be loved so much by the fans,” said SuSuSwamy. This love takes many forms. “Marriage proposals and money offers keep coming,” he said and confessed that “the most exciting moment” is when fans mistake him for BJP’s Swamy and urge him to take down rivals.
It’s not all fun and laughter though. “Many times people have tried to hack my page,” he said. “There are specific instructions sent to mass report my page. I have got death threats and threats to track me down.”
SuSuSwamy still manages the page singlehandedly even though maintaining a work-life balance is “a difficult task”. Fortunately for him, there’s almost a glut of possible posts, thanks to what’s in the news. “I get ideas for the posts from all the political and social happenings in the country,” he said. “It helps me that most of our politicians do things which are generally funny and devoid of any common sense. I just present the happenings in a certain manner which makes my fans laugh.”