PM-hopeful Advani wooing young voters
Trying out weights at a gymnasium, launching a personal website, chatting online and reaching out to students, the 81-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial hopeful L.K. Advani is going all out to woo the young voters, who could play a decisive role in the coming elections.
With the rival Congress party making the most of its young brigade, led by youthful general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Advani's campaign managers are pulling out all stops to position him as a promising candidate who fuses experience with the alertness of a young man.
On a tour of Ahmedabad, a part of which falls in his Gandhinagar constituency in Gujarat, the BJP leader Friday inaugurated a gym developed by the Ahmedabad municipal corporation and also tried out his hands at the weights.
The media personnel covering the event virtually fell over each other to catch on camera the octogenarian leader flexing his muscles with some shoulder crunches.
Earlier, on his 81st birthday in November last year, he launched a website www.lkadvani.in and more recently a vigorous Internet campaign called 'Advani for PM'.
"No other political leader in the country has such an exhaustive website as Advaniji's. It has 800 pages, 250 videos and 4,000 photographs and it is interactive," said Advani's adviser Sudheendra Kulkarni, who has put together the website along with BJP's information technology head Pradyot Bora.
Bora told IANS that the focus of the Internet advertisement blitzkrieg is to "drive home the message that if you want change, go for Advaniji".
"Through (popular search engine) Google, the advertisement goes to as many as 2,000 websites most visited by Indians," he said.
Asked about the purpose of running the Internet campaign on the sites of newspapers in Pakistan and America, he said: "It is obvious we are not targeting voters settled there, but visitors to these sites from India."
The latest addition to the campaign is a programme christened Advani@Campus, which aims to reach out to students on 5,600 campuses across the country.
The programme would be handled by around 125 volunteers chosen from netizens registered on Advani's website. "Over 6,000 users are registered on the site. Over 100 of them participated at a meeting we called in Delhi; they had many suggestions," Kulkarni said.
Former BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu had told reporters recently that the party had chalked out the plan under which netizen volunteers would be recruited till the elections were over. "They would later go back to their own professions."
The campus programme at Jawaharlal Nehru University's (JNU) Tapti Hostel began strategically late in the evening Friday to ensure many of the young voters would be around in their hostels and could be contacted. Former union minister Arun Shourie inaugurated the programme.
The volunteers would be assigned responsibility according to their specialisation. A doctor would run the campaign on medical campuses, while a management student would go to the business schools.
A BJP campaign manager privately said it was important to aggressively woo the youngsters not only because of the Congress projecting Rahul Gandhi as a youth icon, "but also because the first-time voters are indeed asking for younger leaders".
He cited the instance of some questioners asking Advani on an online chat session on www.rediff.com about the need for younger leaders. Some others had posted suggestions on the BJP leader's website that he should have party general secretary Arun Jaitley or Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as his deputy.