Influencers in Indian political journalism

Somya Sagarika, Dibyendu Mishra, Joyojeet Pal

(suggested citation: Sagarika, S., Mishra, D. and Pal, J. (2020) Influencers in Indian political journalism. )

We plotted the friends of journalists in India to understand who are the most “listened to” Twitter accounts among Indian journalists. In essence, we take all the accounts followed by journalists and provide basic descriptives on who has the most “reach” among journalists, insofar as “following” a Twitter account equates to listening to the content from that account. This is preliminary research intending to offer a small set of “lists” to allow for a lay of the land.

All data gathered are done so using the Twitter Public API. All the data included here is public data, and the individuals covered here are persons with significant engagement with public commentary.



While this is an uncritical description of actual engagement, it is useful as a metric of potential influence with the press. Subsequent work will offer more detailed analysis of what this reach does – such as accounts retweeted, median retweet rates etc. While we have not yet made the raw data public, we plan to, and offer a very detailed methodology for anyone who wishes to replicate the data and test results for themselves.



We used a seed set of journalists most retweeted by politicians, then found the friends of those journalists, and hand-annotated each of them to confirm if they were journalists. Based on this, we had an initial set of 2170 accounts – 1899 ground truth journalists, ie. confirmed by a human expert and 271 media collectives such as organizations, newspapers etc. This was done by individual verification by our in-house confirmation of their being journalists. We feel this is a better set than purely seeking Twitter verification status, since many journalists do not get verified (N. Ram of The Hindu, for instance). This seed set was tested to see if major journalists were covered, we feel confident that outside of a small number of possible exceptions, all Indian journalists with a significant Twitter presence were covered.

Based on this set, we used the Twitter public API to find friends of these 1899 (setting a maximum threshold of 4000 friends), and came up with a list of 46,855 Twitter accounts followed by at least 5 journalists from this initial set. This sample of 46,855 twitter accounts is then ordered on the number of the initial set of 1899 journalists following any account. Essentially, the highest score would be 1898 if everyone in the sample followed a single account. Consequently, the set includes anyone followed by five or more of the 1899 journalists and includes politicians, celebrities, influencers, institutions, media houses, and other journalists. While the overall sample may have false positives, all the accounts presented as part of the results are hand-checked for confirmation.

Our rankings are based on any individual Twitter account’s score on the seed set’s following. The most-followed account in our sample was that of Narendra Modi, with 1436 of the seed set following.


All categories are exclusive. Thus, inclusion in one category means exclusion from another. Thus an individual who is or was a politician, but is also a journalist is assigned to their current position. Thus Pritish Nandy is listed as a journalist, while Gautam Gambhir is listed as a politician. The categories are as follows:

Politicians: Includes any individual (not party) currently affiliated with a party, in public office, or having fought an election in the last two elections. These are culled from a set of ~18500 known politicians active in the 2019 general elections

Celebrities: Includes any individual active in public life including sports, business, entertainment, literature etc. Authors or media creators whose work is primarily in fiction are included here.

Academics and Public Intellectuals: Individuals in think tanks, academia, activism, or in professions such as historians or lawyers, who are commentators on public issues are included here. Authors, where their books are academic or quasi academic in nature are included here. We exclude any public intellectuals or commentators who are currently in active government, but include former civil servants who comment on public issues.

Foreign journalists: Any journalist whose location is listed outside India. This includes journalists for Indian news located abroad, but does not include journalist for foreign media located in India

Journalist’s journalists: Journalists who are highly followed within the community of journalists despite not having a very high following in the general public (threshold, minimum 300 journalists following)



While our set has a human annotator removing false positives, a limitation is that we do not have an effective method of catching false negatives. Thus journalists who do not have much of a network – ie are not friends with other journalists are excluded. Another limitation is with categorization, especially when individuals fit multiple categories. In the category “Academics and Public Intellectuals” we list anyone who is a faculty member at a university, a research body, or an intellectual who contributes to public discourse in the mainstream media. Here, we rely on individuals’ self-description on Twitter, but also on whether they are formally affiliated with an academic institution. Some of those listed here therefore may also see themselves as journalists by virtue of writing columns, but are listed as public intellectuals because of their affiliation. Thus Saba Naqvi, who is also a journalist, but as a self-described author and member of faculty, is listed as a public intellectual.



Most followed journalists

Figure 1 shows a visualization of the most followed journalists, with the number of followers on Twitter on the x-axis and the number of followers within the journalist sample in the y-axis. Shekhar Gupta of The Print is the most followed journalist from within the community of journalists, while Rajdeep Sardesai is relatively more popular in the general Twitter population. Some journalists have fairly high following among other journalists relative to their online following such as Siddharth Varadarajan and Naresh Fernandes, whereas others like Vir Sanghvi and Pritish Nandy. Since the visualization is on a log scale, the dots are not intuitive representations of their relative scale.

Journalists most followed by other Indian journalists

Figure 1: Journalists most followed by other Indian journalists

Most followed politicians

Figure 2 shows a visualization of the most followed politicians, with the number of followers on Twitter on the x-axis and the number of followers within the journalist sample in the y-axis. Narendra Modi is the clear leader and others like Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal are also popular among journalists. But the graph also shows that following among casual citizens bear a direct ration to following among the professional press. Some leaders with a relatively small following, such as Atishi and Manish Tiwari, have a reasonably strong footprint among journalists.

Figure 2: Indian politicians followed by journalists in the community (y axis scale starts at 500 followers)


Most followed public intellectuals

Figure 3 shows a visualization of the most followed academics and public intellectuals, with the number of followers on Twitter on the x-axis and the number of followers within the journalist sample in the y-axis. Ramachandra Guha is the clear leader, lawyer Prashant Bhushan is a distant second, followed by Ashoka University professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta.  Public commentators like lawyer Gautam Bhatia and author Akshaya Mukul, who have relatively smaller following among the general public, are heavily followed by the professional press, thus have important spheres of influence in the public discourse.

Scholars and commentators based on the number of people following them (y axis scale starts at 100 followers)

Figure 3: Scholars and commentators based on the number of people following them (y axis scale starts at 100 followers)


Most followed foreign journalists

Figure 4 shows a visualization of the most followed foreign journalists, with the number of followers on Twitter on the x-axis and the number of followers within the journalist sample in the y-axis. This is the only figure in which the trend line is downward – essentially suggesting that some of the most followed journalists in the world such as Anderson Cooper, Ezra Klein, or Nate Silver aren’t necessarily those of most interest to the typical Indian journalist. On the other hand, journalists of Indian origin or foreign correspondents with Indian news tend to have more sway among Indian journalists.

Foreign journalists followed by Indian journalists

Figure 4: Global journalists on Twitter followed in India ranked by the number of Indian journalists following them (y-axis starts at 200 followers)



Outsize popularity journalists

Figure 5 shows a selection of those journalists with the highest journalist follower to general follower ratio. Essentially, these journalists are relatively well followed among their fraternity, even if they do not have a massive following online. To arrive at this list, we took a ratio of the number of followers from within the fraternity to the total number of followers, setting a low threshold of at least 300 followers from among journalists and a maximum of a total of 60,000 Twitter followers for the account. This list offers a crude statistic to identify journalists whose work would appear to have strong purchase among other journalists. In this list, journalists like Raj Kamal Jha, Rohan Venkat, and Josy Joseph are outliers in that have they may not have the same name recognition as some of the most followed journalists, but are particularly well-followed within the fraternity.

Figure 5: Journalists in India with mid range following on twitter (<60k) ranked on the number of major journalists following them (y axis starts at 300 followers)



Figure 6 shows a selection of those celebrities with the highest journalist follower to general follower ratio.  Amitabh Bachchan has the overall highest following, but we see that the correlation between high following online and high following among journalists is not as clear. Akshay Kumar, for instance, is a very highly followed celebrity, but journalists don’t follow his tweets in the same ratio. Businessmen Anand Mahindra and Ratan Tata have far higher following than the ratio of numbers in the general population, which is understandable since entertainers generally do better in terms of overall popularity. Celebrities who tend to be more engaged in political content such as Swara Bhaskar, Kunal Kamra, and Javed Akhtar tend to have better following than celebs who eschew discussing political issues openly including Hritik Roshan and Alia Bhatt.





Table 1: Journalists  (rank order based on how many follows by journalists)

Rank Journalists most followed by journalists
1 Shekhar Gupta ShekharGupta
2 Rajdeep Sardesai sardesairajdeep
3 Barkha Dutt BDUTT
4 Siddharth svaradarajan
5 Suhasini Haidar suhasinih
6 Rahul Kanwal rahulkanwal
7 Pratik Sinha free_thinker
8 N. Ram nramind
9 Sreenivasan Jain SreenivasanJain
10 Sagarika Ghose sagarikaghose
11 Prannoy Roy PrannoyRoyNDTV
12 Rana Ayyub RanaAyyub
13 Dhanya Rajendran dhanyarajendran
14 Nidhi Razdan Nidhi
15 Nistula Hebbar nistula
16 Shivam Vij DilliDurAst
17 Rohini Singh rohini_sgh
18 M K Venu mkvenu1
19 Vikram Chandra vikramchandra
20 vir sanghvi virsanghvi
21 Sankarshan Thakur SankarshanT
22 Madhu Trehan madhutrehan
23 Naresh Fernandes tajmahalfoxtrot
24 ravish kumar ravishndtv
25 Malini Parthasarathy MaliniP
26 Hartosh Singh Bal HartoshSinghBal
27 Nikhil Wagle waglenikhil
28 Sunetra Choudhury sunetrac
29 Smita Prakash smitaprakash
30 Supriya Sharma sharmasupriya
31 Rahul Pandita rahulpandita
32 Vijaita Singh vijaita
33 Praveen Swami praveenswami
34 ParanjoyGuhaThakurta paranjoygt
35 Samar Halarnkar samar11
36 Raj Kamal Jha rajkamaljha
37 Sidharth Bhatia bombaywallah
38 Shiv Aroor ShivAroor
39 Neha Dixit nehadixit123
40 Nitin Sethi nit_set
41 Sruthijith sruthijith
42 Swati Chaturvedi bainjal
43 Faye DSouza fayedsouza
44 Tavleen Singh tavleen_singh
45 Raghav Bahl Raghav_Bahl
46 Aroon Purie aroonpurie
47 Sonia Singh soniandtv
48 Rama Lakshmi RamaNewDelhi
49 Pritish Nandy PritishNandy
50 P. Sainath PSainath_org


Table 2: Politicians (rank order based on how many follows by journalists)

Rank Politicians most followed by journalists
1 Narendra Modi narendramodi
2 Rahul Gandhi RahulGandhi
3 Arvind Kejriwal ArvindKejriwal
4 Shashi Tharoor ShashiTharoor
5 Omar Abdullah OmarAbdullah
6 Amit Shah AmitShah
7 Subramanian Swamy Swamy39
8 Rajnath Singh rajnathsingh
9 Smriti Z Irani smritiirani
10 Yogendra Yadav _YogendraYadav
11 Priyanka Gandhi Vadra priyankagandhi
12 Nirmala Sitharaman nsitharaman
13 Piyush Goyal PiyushGoyal
14 Akhilesh Yadav yadavakhilesh
15 Ravi Shankar Prasad rsprasad
16 Prakash Javadekar PrakashJavdekar
17 Kiran Bedi thekiranbedi
18 Swapan Dasgupta swapan55
19 Kavita Krishnan kavita_krishnan
20 Nitin Gadkari nitin_gadkari
21 digvijaya singh digvijaya_28
22 P. Chidambaram PChidambaram_IN
23 Kanhaiya Kumar kanhaiyakumar
24 Derek O’Brien derekobrienmp
25 Mamata Banerjee MamataOfficial
26 Suresh Prabhu sureshpprabhu
27 Sitaram Yechury SitaramYechury
28 Manish Sisodia msisodia
29 Nitish Kumar NitishKumar
30 Asaduddin Owaisi asadowaisi
31 Shehla Rashid Shehla_Rashid
32 Kapil Sibal KapilSibal
33 Lalu Prasad Yadav laluprasadrjd
34 Ram Madhav rammadhavbjp
35 Ajay Maken ajaymaken
36 Priyanka Chaturvedi priyankac19
37 Swati Chaturvedi bainjal
38 Shivraj Singh Chouhan ChouhanShivraj
39 Dr Harsh Vardhan drharshvardhan
40 Devendra Fadnavis Dev_Fadnavis
41 Dr. S. Jaishankar DrSJaishankar
42 Jignesh Mevani jigneshmevani80
43 Sanjay Jha JhaSanjay
44 Mayawati Mayawati
45 Jyotiraditya M. Scindia JM_Scindia
46 Vijay Kumar Singh Gen_VKSingh
47 Randeep Singh Surjewala rssurjewala
48 Manish Tewari ManishTewari
49 Meenakashi Lekhi M_Lekhi
50 Sachin Pilot SachinPilot


Table 3: Scholars / Commentators (rank order based on how many follows by journalists)

Rank Academics & commentators most followed by journalists
1 Ramachandra Guha Ram_Guha
2 Prashant Bhushan pbhushan1
3 Pratap Bhanu Mehta pbmehta
4 Saba Naqvi _sabanaqvi
5 William Dalrymple DalrympleWill
6 Mihir Sharma mihirssharma
7 Nirupama Menon Rao NMenonRao
8 Bibek Debroy bibekdebroy
9 Kaushik Basu kaushikcbasu
10 S.Y. Quraishi DrSYQuraishi
11 Gautam Bhatia gautambhatia88
12 S lrfan Habib irfhabib
13 Sudheendra Kulkarni SudheenKulkarni
14 Markandey Katju mkatju
15 MadhuPurnima Kishwar madhukishwar
16 Arvind Subramanian arvindsubraman
17 Brahma Chellaney Chellaney
18 Husain Haqqani husainhaqqani
19 Paul Krugman paulkrugman
20 Ashish Khetan AashishKhetan
21 Nitin Pai acorn
22 Dhruva Jaishankar d_jaishankar
23 S Gurumurthy sgurumurthy
24 Kailash Satyarthi k_satyarthi
25 Patrick French PatrickFrench
26 Audrey Truschke AudreyTruschke
27 Milan Vaishnav MilanV
28 Akshaya Mukul Akshayamukul
29 C. Raja Mohan MohanCRaja
30 Srinath Raghavan srinathraghava3
31 Tony Joseph tjoseph0010
32 Ashutosh Varshney ProfVarshney
33 Ashok Swain ashoswai
34 Shankkar Aiyar ShankkarAiyar
35 Tanvi Madan tanvi_madan
36 Menaka Guruswamy MenakaGuruswamy
37 Samir Saran samirsaran
38 Syed Ata Hasnain atahasnain53
39 Ian Bremmer ianbremmer
40 Amish Tripathi authoramish
41 Jaffrelot Christophe jaffrelotc
42 Nandini Sundar nandinisundar
43 Amitabh Mattoo amitabhmattoo
44 Arunava Sinha arunava
45 Arvind Panagariya APanagariya
46 Jawhar Sircar jawharsircar
47 Ian Woolford iawoolford
48 Dr. Shamika Ravi ShamikaRavi
49 Manu S Pillai UnamPillai
50 Amitava Kumar amitavakumar


Table 4: Foreign Journalists (rank order based on how many follows by journalists)

1 Sadanand Dhume dhume
2 Salil Tripathi saliltripathi
3 Bobby Ghosh ghoshworld
4 Annie Gowen anniegowen
4 Chitra Subramaniam chitraSD
6 Fareed Zakaria FareedZakaria
7 Basharat Peer BasharatPeer
8 Rifat Jawaid RifatJawaid
9 Christiane Amanpour camanpour
10 Joanna Slater jslaternyc
11 Raza Ahmad Rumi Razarumi
12 Mehdi Hasan mehdirhasan
13 Michael Kugelman MichaelKugelman
14 Tarek Fatah TarekFatah
15 Jason Burke burke_jason
16 Beena Sarwar beenasarwar
17 Aruna Chandrasekhar aruna_sekhar
18 Ishaan Tharoor ishaantharoor
19 Mohammad Ali hindureporter
20 Meera Srinivasan Meerasrini
21 Nicholas Kristof NickKristof
22 Samanth Subramanian Samanth_S
23 Glenn Greenwald ggreenwald
24 Najam Sethi najamsethi
25 Mehr Tarar MehrTarar
26 Cyril Almeida cyalm
27 Lydia Polgreen lpolgreen
28 Tunku  Varadarajan tunkuv
29 Anna MM Vetticad annavetticad
30 Alan Rusbridger arusbridger
31 Arianna Huffington ariannahuff
32 Anahita Mukherji Newspaperwalli
33 Declan Walsh declanwalsh
34 Mirza Waheed MirzaWaheed
35 Jeffrey Gettleman gettleman
36 Anderson Cooper andersoncooper
37 Thomas L. Friedman tomfriedman
38 John Oliver iamjohnoliver
39 Omar R Quraishi omar_quraishi
40 Julien Bouissou jubouissou
41 Wajahat Kazmi KazmiWajahat
42 Chidanand Rajghatta chidu77
43 Anand Giridharadas AnandWrites
44 Nadeem Farooq Paracha NadeemfParacha
45 Jay Rosen jayrosen_nyu
46 Priyanka Borpujari Pri_Borpujari
47 Ezra Klein ezraklein
48 Indrani Basu IndraniBasu88
49 Maggie Haberman maggieNYT
50 Katharine Viner KathViner


Table 5: Highly followed journalists within journalism community (rank order based on how many follows by journalists)

1 Sankarshan Thakur SankarshanT
2 naresh fernandes tajmahalfoxtrot
3 Supriya Sharma sharmasupriya
4 Samar Halarnkar samar11
5 Raj Kamal Jha rajkamaljha
6 Nitin Sethi nit_set
7 Sruthijith sruthijith
8 Seema Chishti seemay
9 P. Sainath PSainath_org
10 Manu Pubby manupubby
11 Anant Goenka anantgoenka
12 Aman Sharma AmanKayamHai_ET
13 Rukmini S Rukmini
14 Sushant Singh SushantSin
15 Rohan Venkat RohanV
16 Vinod K. Jose vinodjose
17 Aman Sethi Amannama
18 Somesh Jha someshjha7
19 Josy Joseph josyjosephkj
20 Niha Masih NihaMasih
21 Amit Baruah abaruah64
22 Nirupama Subramanian tallstories
23 Rasheed Kidwai rasheedkidwai
24 Maneesh Chhibber maneeshchhibber
25 Liz Mathew MathewLiz
26 Ritika Chopra KhurafatiChopra
27 Jairaj Singh JairajSinghR
28 Anubhuti Vishnoi anubhutivishnoi
29 Vidya Krishnan VidyaKrishnan
30 Mahesh Langa LangaMahesh
31 Sowmiya Ashok sowmiyashok
32 Anoo Bhuyan AnooBhu
33 Nandagopal Rajan nandu79
34 Snigdha Poonam snigdhapoonam
35 Jyoti Malhotra jomalhotra
36 Soutik Biswas soutikBBC
37 Pragya Tiwari PragyaTiwari
38 Jatin Gandhi jatingandhi
39 Suhasini Raj suhasiniraj
40 Rohini Mohan rohini_mohan
41 Govindraj Ethiraj govindethiraj
42 Smriti Kak smritikak
43 Shoaib Daniyal ShoaibDaniyal
44 Aruna Chandrasekhar aruna_sekhar
45 Mohammad Ali hindureporter
46 P Vaidyanathan Iyer iyervaidy
47 Rahul Bhatia rahulabhatia
48 Neelam Pandey NPDay
49 Samanth Subramanian Samanth_S
50 Ritu Kapur kapur_ritu


Table 6: Celebrities (rank order based on how many follows by journalists)

1 Amitabh Bachchan SrBachchan
2 Shah Rukh Khan iamsrk
3 Aamir Khan aamir_khan
4 anand mahindra anandmahindra
5 Ratan N. Tata RNTata2000
6 Sachin Tendulkar sachin_rt
7 Javed Akhtar Javedakhtarjadu
8 Bill Gates BillGates
9 Swara Bhasker ReallySwara
10 Salman Rushdie SalmanRushdie
11 Kunal Kamra kunalkamra88
12 Chetan Bhagat chetan_bhagat
13 Anupam Kher AnupamPKher
14 Farhan Akhtar FarOutAkhtar
15 A.R.Rahman arrahman
16 Virat Kohli imVkohli
17 Salman Khan BeingSalmanKhan
18 Deepika Padukone deepikapadukone
19 Azmi Shabana AzmiShabana
20 Anurag Kashyap anuragkashyap72
21 Nandan Nilekani NandanNilekani
22 Karan Johar karanjohar
23 Priyanka Chopra priyankachopra
24 Amitav Ghosh GhoshAmitav
25 Shekhar Kapur shekharkapur
26 Gul Panag GulPanag
27 Lalit Kumar Modi LalitKModi
28 Vijay Mallya TheVijayMallya
29 Mahesh Bhatt MaheshNBhatt
30 Twinkle Khanna mrsfunnybones
31 Rajinikanth rajinikanth
32 Ramesh Srivats rameshsrivats
33 Sam Pitroda sampitroda
34 Akshay Kumar akshaykumar
35 Virender Sehwag virendersehwag
36 Abhishek Bachchan juniorbachchan
37 Hrithik Roshan iHrithik
38 Kiran Mazumdar Shaw kiranshaw
39 Gurmehar Kaur mehartweets
40 Tanmay Bhat thetanmay
41 Rishi Kapoor chintskap
42 Varun Grover varungrover
43 Sania Mirza MirzaSania
44 Elon Musk elonmusk
45 Mahendra Singh Dhoni msdhoni
46 Alia Bhatt aliaa08
47 Boman Irani bomanirani
48 Devdutt Pattanaik devduttmyth
49 Irrfan irrfank
50 Lata Mangeshkar mangeshkarlata