Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was roped in by his party to counter Narendra Modi's development plank in the Gujarat assembly elections five months ago by showcasing the rapid-fire progress made by the northern state during the present Congress regime.
Though he could not make much difference to the political fortune of his party, Hooda has not let go of any opportunity since to project Haryana as "way ahead" of Gujarat. He now wants to take on tech-savvy Modi on his favourite turf: cyberspace. And, his public relations team has put together a plan for his strong presence online to engage and address Internet denizens directly.
As a first step of the "going-digital strategy", a website of the chief minister from the Jat heartland of Rohtak, whose presence in the virtual world has been negligible at best thus far, is being set up to connect with the rapidly growing tribe of netizens. "The plan is to have a platform where the CM can seamlessly share his ideas, vision, policies and achievements of the government with people directly, besides actively involving them in the progress of the state," according to director general, information and public relations, Sudhir Rajpal.
The department has asked the Haryana State Electronics Development Corporation (Hartron) to invite bids from web designing and development companies. "The CM's website will go online in three months in all probability. We will have audio and videos of his rallies and important functions. The IPR department will have ownership of the content," he said. The department is also buying equipment for live video streaming of the CM's functions on its own website and will also provide live feed to TV networks through its studio in Chandigarh.
Besides his biography, vision, policy initiatives and speeches, the website will give netizens the opportunity to exchange ideas with the CM, make online donations to the CM's relief fund and seek an appointment with him, according to the website architecture finalised by the department. Though he has been in power for the past eight years, this is the first time Hooda will be venturing into cyberspace.
With the Lok Sabha and assembly elections inching closer and the growing number of online audiences in the rapidly-urbanising state, his voyage into the virtual world is being seen as a timely move to connect with the young voters. Haryana has more than 5 lakh households with Internet connectivity through computers or mobile phones. While it is difficult to say how many of them actively follow politics or politicians, the new media is widely acknowledged as a powerful medium to engage young voters and supplement traditional campaigning.
One-stop call centre
The government has also decided to set up a 24x7 first-stop government call centre for citizens. Based on the award-winning General Information Centre (GIC) programme of Sri Lanka, the bilingual (Hindi and English) call centre would facilitate the people by providing information about the government schemes, services and procedures in an efficient and friendly manner. "There will be a single number for citizens to access information on public facilities and services. The public grievances department will invite expression of interest shortly from private service providers interested in running the call centre. It will be a first-of-its-kind information service for citizens in the country," chief secretary PK Chaudhery told Hindustan Times. In Sri Lanka, GIC is operating as a single, electronic, trilingual (Sinhala, Tamil and English), online knowledge base of over 1,500 services available to citizens from 130-odd government organisations.
Naveen Jindal, MP, Kururkshetra - Active on website, Facebook, Twitter
Deepender Singh Hooda, MP, Rohtak - Facebook, Twitter
Kuldeep Bishnoi, MP, Hisar - website, Facebook, Twitter
Abhey Singh Chautala, MLA, Ellenabad - Facebook, Twitter