Imagine this scenario. As National Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar tours his assembly to garner votes for the Maharashtra assembly elections, a global positioning system (GPS) receiver tracks his movements.
“Security is an overriding concern,” reasons Prakash Binsale, general secretary and spokesperson, NCP Maharashtra, “in the backdrop of the tragic death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. It also helps us in better coordination to gather people at different venues where Pawar will speak. We are able to track where he is, how long he will take to reach the venue and accordingly we alert our team.”
The NCP is simply a case in point. Similar to the trends that were observed during the general elections, all parties contesting the Maharashtra assembly elections are leveraging the digital media to be heard above the din. However, this time around, they are using not only the internet but making the most of mobiles and nifty applications like GPS.
For instance, party members are sending mass email messages to gather people at the rally venue. And all the national parties have websites with a feedback mechanism. Some have gone further, putting up rally videos on sites like AOL and YouTube.
For instance, the Shiv Sena is advertising both on the internet and mobiles. One can see ads and videos of rallies on all prominent sites like Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and YouTube. Besides candidate promotion, they are also using mass SMS to gather people for rallies — sends messages to the masses, two days before a rally to gather at the venue.
Not only this, the party has set up its own call centre in Shiv Sena headquarters. Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena leader and MP, comments: “ We are getting around 4,000 calls a day, even from rural areas.”
National parties like NCP and Congress are, however, sticking to mobiles. Binsale says: “Our concentration is in rural areas where the internet penetration is low. Candidates might be using mass SMS, but the party is not doing hi-tech campaigning. We have confined our online activity only to our website.” NCP is contesting only seven seats each in hi-tech cities Mumbai and Pune, so it doesn’t make sense going gung-ho on the internet, he reasons.
Not giving any number on money pumped into Google advertising during elections, Narasimha Jayakumar, business head, Google, confirms: “Elections have been significant. General elections were called digital elections. Political parties are trying to leverage internet to connect with youth.”