The Internet, mobile phones, television, print, outdoor – political parties are leaving no media platform untouched in their campaign trail. The mobile phone has emerged as an important touchpoint in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, facilitating parties and their leaders to reach out to a wider voter group.
According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the number of mobile phone users has increased from 36 million in 2004 to 375.74 million by the end of February 2009. This forms a sizeable part of the population.
Some believe that mobiles (especially SMSes) could be a game-changer in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. Nearly half the voting population (about 375 million of the total 700 million) could be reached through SMSes. Also, many interactive services, such as ‘find your polling both’, ‘who are the criminals contesting in your constituency’, etc., could increase the appeal and use of SMS in these elections.
Taking the advantage of huge penetration of mobiles in the country, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Media Campaign Committee, headed by party general secretary Arun Jaitley, has decided to use SMS services extensively.
The party is already using SMSes to contact the voters. BJP spokesperson Siddharthnath Singh told exchange4media, “There are 35 crore mobile users in the country. Therefore, we think mobile campaigning is a better idea to reach the voters. We are trying to reach as many voters through SMS across the country as we can.”
He further said, “We are approaching 70 per cent of the total mobile users in India by sending them messages. We have tied up with Mumbai-based solutions provider company Netcore Solutions Pvt Ltd. We have started sending at least three SMSes to every individual before the polling begins.”
Rajesh Jain, Managing Director, Netcore Solutions, explained, “Mobile is the fastest medium to reach the voters through SMS, voice calls, contests, etc. We are an exclusive partner for BJP for these Lok Sabha elections.”
He further said, “There are primarily three different ways to reach voters – through SMSes, voice calls or automated pre-recorded phone calls and GPRS (general packet radio service). Of these three, the primary focus of political parties is on SMSes since it is non-intrusive and can help them reach voters directly and in a targeted way.”
As for the other national player in the polls – the Congress – its campaign coordinator for Maharashtra region, Dr Gorakh Bobde, said, “The Congress party has not yet planned any kind of mobile campaign for the Maharashtra region.” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari was not available for comments at the time of filing this report.