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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Tech city’s digital divide turns electoral

Naveen Ammembala, Hindustan Times  Bengaluru, April 28, 2013
First Published: 00:19 IST(28/4/2013) | Last Updated: 19:31 IST(2/5/2013)

Prashanth K, 32, an IT professional, does ‘election work’ for two to three hours a day. He scrutinises Facebook accounts of candidates, posts comments and so on to generate e-buzz about the assembly election on May 5.

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On the day, however, Prashanth may not vote.

The tech city of India has a large number of young professionals like Prashanth whose participation is limited to using the web and social media on their desktops, laptops and smart phones.

At the other end is Kariappa Samy, 40, a resident of Vasanthanagar. The slum celebrates every election as a carnival with participation in campaigns and polling.

Samy says he is “waiting to get up at the crack of dawn on May 5” to cast his vote.

Here lies the rub. Prashanth’s area Sadashiva Nagar gets attention from the urban local body and the state government. But Vasanthanagar slum, like many others of its kind which register high voting percentages, is bypassed.

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Bangalore has 862 slums with 20% of its residents. The slums usually register over 75% voting. However, the reluctance of tech-savvy voters to vote brings down the average to about 45%.

IT professional Ravi Krishna Reddy, contesting as Lok Satta candidate, said there was a gap between digital and non digital voters.

Bangalore city, with its extensions, has 30 assembly constituencies of which 20 are developed. There are more than 30 lakh young educated voters and 10 lakh youth who have access to computers.

To woo these people, political parties have gone tech-savvy too.

Leaders from the main parties — even a rural leader like HD Kumaraswamy — have started using social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, SMS and online alerts. Parties are using videos and web campaigns.

The BJP, in its manifesto, assured implementation of unrestricted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), upgrading telephone booths to internet kiosks and making post offices IT-enabled Multi Service Outlets.

The Congress announced laptops and digital notepads to pre-university students.

Sadananda K, IT entrepreneur in Electronic City, said all voters should be considered “digital” because they have access on their mobiles. “The issues for digital and non-digital are the same - prices and basic amenities.”

Corruption is a major issue especially among the young tech people, said political analyst Dinesh Amin Mattu.

As many as 184 of the state’s 224 constituencies are rural where issues are drought, sanitation, proper price for agricultural products, wages, good hospitals, and English in Kannada schools.

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