Continuing with following the election activities by various political parties and media houses on all platforms – print, online, on-ground – exchange4media takes a further look at the online initiatives of Net-savvy netas and media houses. This report is in continuation of the ‘Battle for the Ballot begins in cyber world’ report that appeared on March 24, 2009.
There certainly is an Obama-effect here. Dilip Venkatraman, CMO, IBN18 Network, told exchange4media, “US President Barack Obama’s extensive use of online medium has indeed set an example of effective use of the medium itself. With over 700 million Indians below 35 years of age, there is indeed a palpable change in the mindset of our politicos, who now want to connect with the young, literate and the Internet savvy generation. We are witnessing the growing involvement and interest of the youth in politics. Keeping the same in mind, IBNPolitics.com was launched to provide a comprehensive resource pool of information on Indian politics. It was only apt to launch it just ahead of the 15th Lok Sabha elections.”
He further explained, “IBNPolitics.com is all about convenience. The WAP (wireless access protocol) version of this portal, http://m.ibnpolitics.com, will enable users to access the latest news while on the move. The portal till now has seen participation from a host of people from politics and industry leaders – to name a few, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, HD Deve Gowda, Nandan Nilekani, Suhel Seth, Jayanthi Natarajan and Jaya Jaitly.”
Venkatraman added, “It was on February 16, 2009 when IBNPolitics.com was officially launched, 100 days before the 15th Lok Sabha elections. Within a month, the portal has clocked over 25 million page views.”
Indipepal.com is another website providing complete information on elections, which include exclusive news features and interviews with leading political personalities, opinions and analysis of noted experts, headlines from leading media across India, profiles of politicians and their parties, an overview of 50 years of elections in India, etc.
To prove that politics need not always be serious stuff, gaming portal onlinerealgmaes.com has been launched, which has some interesting political games such as Vote a Leader, Political War, Who Wins, Vote Fun, Segment War, etc. One can even chose one’s prime minister with the click of the mouse.
Tech savvy netas
Most of the young guns of Indian politics have their presence in cyber space. Quite a few of them can be found on social networking site Orkut. These include Sanjay Nirupam, spokesperson of Maharastra Pradesh Congress Committee; Sonia Gandhi’s community on Orkut has over 5,000 members, while Rahul Gandhi has over 7,000 members. The Gandhi scion also has his own website, rahulgandhi.com, which carries his biography, his leadership and his political journey. Sachin Pilot, too, has his own website. Young Congress leaders Priya Dutt and Milind Deora are present on Facebook, and so is Raj Thackeray. Not so young BJP leader L K Advani has his own very popular website, lkadvani.in.
The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, too, have their own websites, so does old political warhorse CPI (M) – vote.cpim.org, which has a box displaying their slogan prominently that says – ‘Congress Bhajpa Harao, CPM jitaoo’.
Samajwadi Party has its web presence in the form of samajwadipartyindia.com. Besides a host of features, the website also mentions 10 reasons to join Samajwadi Party, depicted intriguingly through random alphabets – NSENLYFSVY. When expanded, these read – Nation First (N), Secular India (S), Equal Rights (E), No Barriers (N), Leadership (L), Youth First (Y), Fight Injustice (F), Stronger India (S), Village First (V), and Your Vote (Y).
Varun Gandhi has become a topic of heated discussions in cyberspace. The young BJP candidate has been charged under the National Securities Act and attempted murder by the Uttar Pradesh Police for his alleged inflammatory speeches and is currently lodged in Pilibhit jail. There is equal measure of support and brickbats for him.
A blogger wrote: ‘If he is a true Hindu that he claims he is, then he should work for their and others’ upliftment. Poverty, literacy and employment – there are enough issues for him to work for a lifetime, instead of brainwashing poor uneducated people on petty politics’.
In one Orkut forum, a Varun fan wrote: ‘Varun Gandhi is a one-man army with a lot of capabilities to lead the nation. Whatever he said was the truth, and finally somebody has had enough courage to do that’.
Media planners’ view
So, are the media planners impressed by this cyber show put up by political parties and leaders of all hues? CD Mitra, who was President of Mudra Max and is now working as an independent media consultant, said, “Digital is the best cost effective medium in India and that is one of the reasons everybody is using digital to promote or attract voters. However, compared to what we had seen in the case of the US, you can say that digital campaigning is growing in India, but still has a limited reach.”
Chirantan Chandran, Partner, Mindshare World, observed, “The focus on digital will depend on the campaign strategy of the political party. With a huge number of first time voters, obviously people might want to put more stress on digital, the medium where the youth is spending a lot of time. However, for a party that is aiming to reach out to the mass, within the digital space mobile will play a bigger role. With about 325 million mobile users in India and about 80 per cent of them in the 20-40 age group, and millions being added every month, mobile can give the right reach in the smaller markets.”
Elections 2009: Battle for the Ballot begins in cyber world