Ideas used to travel by horseback, ships, palm leaves and postcards. Then came the telegraph, teleprinter, TV and radio. But the Internet and social media are such that ideas travel in seconds back and forth across the planet. And the easier they are to adapt to or adopt, the more powerful they become.
So it was that Prime Minister designate-Narendra Modi’s enduring image during BJP’s campaign that swept him to power last week is that of him outside his polling both, tweeting a photo that only a year ago became an English language word – “selfie”. The idea of the leader tweeting a selfie presumably came from the US president Barack Obama, whose penchant for use of social media and the selfie is by now known.
With Congress and the BJP both embracing the social media, this year’s election turned out to be a technological watershed for India. It is not surprising, perhaps. Even in the late 1990s, before his untimely death, I once heard the late Pramod Mahajan, who orchestrated the BJP’s campaign in many ways, tell some of us in a private group meeting as to how his campaigners would go into the then popular chat rooms to boost the prospects of their party.
What I am trying to say is simple: technology is user-neutral and the cheaper, easier it is to use, the faster it becomes pervasive.
Events in Molodova, Turkey, Egypt and India in the past couple of years have shown that the Internet is a powerful technology for social and political change. I find it odd that we have an expression called e-commerce, but not one called e-politics.
Modi’s arrival also marks the arrival of e-politics in India.