CIRCA 2004, when mobile advertising and telemarketing were concepts still unheard of and the country was yet to wake up to 100% cellular connectivity, mobile users started getting calls from a familiar voice saying ‘Main Atal Bihari Vajpayee bol raha hoon’. It was a recorded message from the then incumbent prime minister seeking a second term in office.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) innovative platform might not have made any difference to its poll prospects in the general election that year, but it definitely ushered in a new era in poll advertising and voter reach campaigns.
Back to 2014, BJP is again pinning hopes on a similar poll plank that, it believes, will be a game-changer. So, move over trinkets, masks, apparel and other traditional paraphernalia, and say hello to mobile phone apps, games, websites, ringtones and fully-loaded smartphones dedicated to the man of the moment—the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
As per an Election Commission estimate, about 90,000 voters, aged between 18 and 22 years, will be eligible to vote for the first time in each Lok Sabha constituency this year. This underlines the importance of the young voters — often seen as impatient and aspirational—as the saffron party and its associated groups
try to woo them with new-age strategies.
The Gujarat chief minister, who has set a target of 272 Lok Sabha seats this time around, is also running an online campaign—aptly called India272— to mobilise the young masses. Modi himself is an ardent user of technology. A prolific tweeter with 3.48 million followers on Twitter, he had been using 3D technology to appear at more than one political rally simultaneously.
To manage BJP’s social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter, Arvind Gupta, the head of BJP’s IT cell, says there’s a core team of 10 people in place. This is apart from millions of supporters who make initiatives like India272 successful, he adds.
“The first vote is almost 30 days away from today and we don’t have time to do anything new. Our online campaign is now in the last gear. Our India272 campaign has got an overwhelming response on Twitter,” Gupta says.
But not all apps and games that are available today have been developed by the BJP or Modi’s campaign teams.
“Only official applications of the party and Modi are managed by us. The games have been developed by supporting groups. The party is not financing any such activity,” Gupta explains.