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HindustanTimes Sun,26 Oct 2014

BJP’s backroom boys usher in digital governance

Kumar Uttam and Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 10, 2014
First Published: 00:15 IST(10/8/2014) | Last Updated: 12:49 IST(12/8/2014)

Some of the people who were part of the behind-the-scenes digital war-room that helped Narendra Modi touch base with millions during his Lok Sabha campaign have a new job: to use the internet to get people involved in governance and provide the PM a way talk to his citizens without having to depend on traditional forms of media like newspapers and television.

The digital squad that came up with the ‘mission 272+’ slogan was also behind the idea to have an interactive online portal — mygov.nic.in. It was launched recently by PM Modi and allows him to send messages to the people directly and gets them involved in the drafting and implementation of policies.

The portal, talking about key initiatives like clean Ganga and skill development, is Modi’s dream of instant connectivity and maximum communication — with minimal face-to-face engagement — come true.

“In an age where many people access the net through mobiles it is not possible to stay away from that medium to reach out,” says the invite on the portal asking people to make an app to access the PMO website.

It’s a hint that the PM is looking beyond traditional media to directly interact with the people.

Hiren Joshi, who was part of the digital war-room and worked with Modi in Gujarat, is now an officer on special duty in the PMO and is the eyes and ears for the PM on what’s happening in social media.

Joshi monitors the feedback on the new portal and gives regular status reports to Modi. He also manages the PM’s social media accounts and was key in ensuring that the PMO website went live seconds after Modi’s swearing in.

Shashi Shekhar, chief executive officer of Niti Digital – an online platform that supported Modi during his campaign -- says the PM believes in direct communication and mainstream media will have to get used to the new reality.

 “I can see why Delhi’s media is disappointed… leaks have dried up and planted stories have stopped,” he replied when asked whether the same communication strategy Modi used as a campaigner would work when in government, especially given the criticism that he has turned uncommunicative.

Shekhar added that Modi has already called for continued engagement through online mode and their mission would continue under the mygov.nic.in platform, structured to invite suggestions on key government initiatives.

A journalist who has access to Modi says, “He has never trusted the Delhi media, which hounded him. And he has not done too badly by bypassing them. Why should he change now? He has won on his own terms. It is time for you in the media to learn to live without the kind of access you enjoyed during UPA.”

However, the BJP’s IT cell convener Arvind Gupta says the portal is not a substitute to newspapers or television, “…it supplements other forms of communication. It may have greater utility in certain circumstances, not necessarily always.”

The portal has received a good response with over 1.5 lakh people signing in within days of the launch. “Over 700 case studies on different subjects and 2.67 lakh photographs have been uploaded,” says Ajay Kumar, a joint secretary in the IT department, who is closely associated with Modi’s idea of participatory democracy through digital media.


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