Political parties in India’s Silicon Valley embrace technology

March 27th, 2009 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, March 27 (IANS) It is probably fitting that political parties in India’s IT hub are embracing technology as they reach out to the Gen-Next in their own language over the Internet and through SMS.

The latest to join in wooing voters through e-technology is Janata Dal-S, the party which till recently believed in the mantra of direct interaction with the janata (public) through rallies and door-to-door campaigns, mostly in rural areas.

JD-S in its latest avatar will interact with its voters through its official website, to be launched soon.

As a part of its online campaign, JD-S is set to systematically target voters through SMS, e-mails and video clippings from April onwards.

Former Karnataka chief minister and senior JD-S leader H.D. Kumaraswamy is taking keen interest in setting up a full-fledged and permanent IT infrastructure for the party.

“The decision to take up e-campaigning is to bring in a new aspect into the party. Times are changing and we too are keeping pace with modern technology. Through latest technology we plan to reach out to a wider segment of society.

“The state has a high rate of population using Internet services and almost all the people have a mobile telephone,” JD-S senior leader C. Narayanaswamy, who is coordinating the campaign with Kumaraswamy, told IANS.

But, when it comes to use of technology, it’s the state’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is way ahead of its two main rival groups, the Congress Party and the JD-S.

Experts believe that it was the BJP’s extensive use of its web portal, SMS campaigns and aggressive advertising which helped it to win the assembly elections in May 2008.

The state BJP unit has a dedicated IT cell.

Voters have already started receiving SMS “news alerts” from the BJP, announcing its candidates and programmes.

The BJP website was started five years ago and the latest version was created some five months ago.

“Our website is getting around 6,000 hits per day. We update the website daily with latest information. In our audio-video section we post all the latest campaign rallies and press meets by the party leaders,” Harsha Perla, designer of the website, told IANS.

“Around 600 volunteers have registered themselves on the website to campaign for the coming elections,” added Perla, a software engineer from Mangalore University.

The Congress too is busy upgrading its soon-to-be-re-launched website and other technical machineries.

“We too are relying on technology to reach out to voters. With the available technology in hand, we’re trying our best to pass on our message across Karnataka,” said Krishna Byre Gowda, a sitting legislator from the Byatarayanapura constituency in Bangalore, who is known to be quite tech-savvy and has his personal website.

As the state unit of the Congress awaits the re-launch of its website, the JD-S is leaving no stone unturned to give its own website a tech-savvy look.

Parties have good reasons to adopt Internet and SMS extensively to reach out to voters.

According to data available, around 50 percent of Bangalore’s population of over six million is in the age group of 18-39.

That is primarily why all the major parties are making the best use of e-campaigning to reach out to the tech-savvy Gen-Next voters.

It is estimated that around 80 percent of Bangaloreans have access to Internet services and 95 percent of the population owns individual mobile phones. While 60 percent of Karnataka’s population has access to Internet facilities, around 80 percent use mobile phones.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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