Eightyone-year-old LK Advani recently found himself facing an odd challenge in a chat room online. Someone asked the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate his views on a “younger PM”. A stumped Advani “humbly” offered himself as the right candidate, but the irony was not lost on his party.
Like every other party, the BJP wants to woo the 10 crore first-time voters in the coming general election — especially through the ‘digital mediums’ used by the youth. Among these, the Internet scores over the others. Television is way too costly and mobile phones have the constraint of space. But, despite the limitations FM radio faces, this will be the first general election to blare campaigns on this emerging medium.
The parties are also beginning to recognise that the Internet is the medium that’s evolving at the fastest clip. Droll party websites do not engage. Even blogs — at least the way they are — are so last year.
Taking note of this, the team that set up Advani’s blog just before last year’s state elections is working on setting up a social networking site on the lines of Orkut and Facebook. At the same time, they are revamping the party website. The latter will be unveiled this Monday, while the former is likely to take a bit longer.
Prodyut Bora, the 34-year-old head of BJP’s IT team, says, “The idea is to reach out to the fence-sitters among voters.” His laptop flashes the new, BJP-branded instant messenger that helps party workers from 16 states chat online.
The Congress camp, too, is mounting a formidable online campaign. Coming soon are blogs by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, promises party spokesperson Manish Tewari. He rubbishes the thought that the Congress is playing catch-up and points out that his party, unlike the BJP, will have several blogs by other party workers too.
Data revealed by Google India managing director Shailesh Rao, however, shows a different reality — the BJP support group on Orkut has 21,296 members against the Congress’s 11,931. (A number of them may be based abroad.)
But the medium that worked well for Barack Obama in the US, where 70 out of every 100 people are connected to the Internet, may not work in India, where the corresponding figure is five. But that’s not stopping any political party in this season.