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Missing this time: Cellphone canvassing

india Updated: Nov 25, 2008 00:54 IST
Saeed Khan
Saeed Khan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The mobile telephony revolution appears to have passed political parties by if campaigning for the assembly elections Indore is any indicator.

With barely three days to go for the polls neither the Congress nor the Bharatiya Janata Party has shown any inclination to use caller tunes, ring tones or bulk SMSes. These relatively inexpensive methods of reaching out to the mass of voters on a one-to-one basis are missing this time.

It could be because the people know everything they need to but even political parodies of Hindi movie chartbusters, that venerable staple of the polling arena, are missing too.

All of which makes for an election that is humdrum. Of course, some candidates are wearing their ideological colours on their phone sleeves. Call Indore-3 BJP candidate Gopikrishna Nema, for instance, and you're greeted with the stirring Vande Mataram. But these are purely individual efforts.

Said city Congress chief Pramod Tandon, "The PCC has no plans of using caller tunes or SMSes to canvass votes. It has been left entirely at the candidates' discretion."

The BJP, however, was ready with a string of caller tunes, parodies of hit film songs composed by well known music director Ravindra Jain -- but there were few takers.

The Election Commission directive banning bulk text messages 48 hours prior to polling seems to have queered the pitch for SMS canvassing.

Said a senior Congress leader who did not want to be named, "Cellular service providers are chary about requests for bulk messages by political parties".

Concurred a senior Delhi-based Airtel officer who preferred anonymity, "As a matter of policy we don't entertain bulk message requests because we don't want to be identified with any particular party."

"However, there's little we can do if the request comes from an individual," the officer said.

He confirmed that the telephony firm had received instructions from the Election Commission about ban on the use of SMSes 48 hours before polling. "The directives have been forwarded to all circles with orders to ensure strict compliance," he said.