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BJP’s middle-class utopia takes shape on Internet

To engage its followers on the social media and convert them into potential vote bank, the Bharatiya Janta Party [BJP] has started to organise online quiz competitions where the winners get a chance to meet top party leaders. 'It is a listening engagement process,’ says the BJP national IT coordinator Arvind Gupta, who heads the new media team of the party. He says that it is very important to listen to the points of view of people, and the party tries to gauge the sense of the public mood through social media.

The party appreciates that it draws much support from the middle class, which makes maximum use of social media. The party tried reaching out to them during the 2004 and 2009 General Elections using full potential of the new media. 'The party has the support of middle and upper classes, which are inclined towards right-wing politics. The party has managed to somewhat catch the imagination of the new working class, which is mostly employed in the IT industry,' says the political scientist Shiv Visvanathan.

There is a constant conversation between the party and its followers on the new media, with the IT cell using interesting tools to push its agenda on the Internet. For example, consider the questions that were asked by the party in one of online quizzes held recently: 'Former President Pratibha Patil's son was caught by the Election Commission during municipal election with how much cash?' and 'name the telecom minister who converted Rs 550 cr penalty on Reliance group to Rs 5 cr'. The party not only targets its opposition through these quizzes, it also counters the attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] by asking questions, like 'Which Congress leader said that RSS was more dangerous than Pakistan-based terror organisation?'

'The new media is the marriage of technology with political marketing, and we have been able to understand that,' says Gupta, who has a team of over 100 people across the country, with 30 of them sitting in Delhi itself. The team looks after the web operations of the party and operates round the clock.

Gupta is an Indian Institute of Technology-BHU graduate and has got a doctorate in technology management. With this team, the BJP launched its first web site in 1999, when Internet penetration in the country was still in its nascent stages and dial-up Internet access was used. By entering into the new media platform early, the BJP presently is way ahead in the race when it comes to its political rivals. The party not only boasts of six web properties but also has a much larger fan following than its competitors on Facebook and Youtube.

'Creativity of the Right needs to be understood. The Congress and the Left have failed to capture the political imagination through this medium,' says Visvanathan. He offers a piece of advice to young Congress leaders: 'We do hear that they are tech-savvy leaders, but unfortunately their web presence is minimal. They should probably take lessons from senior BJP leaders, like L K Advani, on how to use the medium,' says Visvanathan.
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