The political campaigning for the 15 Lok Sabha elections would be visible as much on the Internet as in the colourful cacophony on ground – to woo both the ‘mass’ and the ‘class’ voters. exchange4media takes a look at the Web initiatives of various political parties, leaders and news channels.
It is a sign of the times that political parties have realised the importance of keeping in step with the expectations of an evolving electoral base which is intelligent, opinionated, and leverages the power of the digital medium to find its individual voice amongst a crowd.
During the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the Internet had accounted for less than 1 per cent of the advertising budgets of the political parties. Today, the digital media makes up at least 10 per cent of the budget. Devesh Ram, Account Manager, Ignitee Digital Solutions Pvt Ltd, told exchange4media, “We are handling the entire digital work for the Congress party, which includes social media, Google search and campaigns.” He, however, refrained from revealing details about the spending on these activities.
Internet campaigns and news sites are mushrooming across the Internet prior to the 2009 General Elections. Whether it is an attempt to superficially duplicate US President Barack Obama’s successful online campaigning or if it really signals a change in the mindset of our politicos who now want to connect with the young, literate and Internet-savvy generation, only time will tell.
Nearly all news channels and print publications have come up with ‘Election Specials’ for their Web avatars or election-related microsites. CNN-IBN has launched a news site, IBNPolitics.com, to provide updates during the elections and encourage live blogs and chats on the elections. The site has some news in Hindi as well. CNN-IBN had also organised a blog contest after the Gujarat Assembly elections in 2007, inviting opinions on Narendra Modi. Ashutosh, Managing Editor, IBN7, was not available for comments at time of filling this report.
Meanwhile, the Press Information Bureau has launched a ‘Macro Site’ for the benefit of journalists covering the General Elections this year. Rajesh Malhotra, Director - Media & Communication, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, informed, “We launched this website on March 2, 2009, a day after the Lok Sabha election dates were announced, and till date we have record 7,594 visitors.” When asked about the idea behind launching this ‘Macro Site’, Malhotra replied, “We felt the need to have a website that provided complete election information to our clients, that is, obviously the media. You can find all information related to the previous elections here.”
He further said, “Very soon we will be launching the Election Commission campaign on our website, which urges the voters to cast their votes.”
Political tamasha goes online
When one talks about communities and blogs on the Internet, one of the first things that come to mind is The Times of India’s ‘Lead India’ campaign and Tata Tea’s ‘Jaagore’ campaign. The Lead India site features blogs, communities, and contests based on the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The ‘Jaagore’ campaign has perhaps had a big hand in pulling the young voters and making them aware about exercising their voting rights. The special Jaagore.com website features information on voting, issues of national concern, blogs, election news, videos and downloads to encourage citizens to shrug their apathy towards the political system and cast their votes. The site has been set up by Tata Tea. The Jaagore TVC remains one of the most popular campaigns still on air. Now, youth channel Bindass and actor John Abraham have also been roped in to encourage the youth to come out and vote.
VoteIndia.in is another website out to help voters make an informed choice by e-mailing them information about the political candidates’ qualifications, work, track record and criminal background. The site owners have also uploaded videos on YouTube.
Besides various websites and blogging sites, election news would also be available via microbloggers on social networking site Twitter, which was used by thousands to track and report on Barack Obama’s progress as a presidential candidate. It looks like the Twitter community has selected the tagline ‘India Votes’ for everyone to use.
Apart from the news sites, communities and blogs, the 2009 elections will also see politicians of various hues logging on to the Internet to connect with the wired generation.
The Opposition’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani has his own website, lkadvani.in, which is proving to be quite popular. The surfer is greeted by a ‘I have a dream’ kind of message in English from Advani himself on visiting the website, which is available in both Hindi and English. The website has been developed and designed by Tetra Information Services Pvt Ltd, a business process outsourcing and solution provider company.
The Congress party, too, has its Web presence in the form of Congress.org.in, which contains details about office information bearers, the party history, the achievements of the UPA Government, and even a link where one can go to express support for the party online. The Congress has launched another website, vote4congress.com, which has all the current information related to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
RJD supremo and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, too, has gone online with his very own blog. Called ‘Lalu Leela’, the blog promises to be as entertaining as the political leader himself.
When it comes to elections, there is no dearth of developing reports. exchange4media will be bringing in more news and information related to this ‘Great Indian Poll Show’ in the coming days.
To be continued…