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Indian Nationalist Models Campaign After US

The web-centered presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Ron Paul have demonstrated how much the Internet has changed the face of political campaigning in America. Now it appears that the web is changing campaign landscapes in newly wired countries. The Washington Post reports that India’s elder candidate for Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, is using a similar campaign model as Senator Obama. Advani’s political strategists hope to take advantage of cyberspace in order to mobilize voters in India, especially the millions of youth who will be first-time voters in the up-coming election.

The Hindu nationalist and his party, Bharatiya Janata, plan to utilize Youtube, Flickr, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Orkut to spread Advani’s message of “change.” The campaign will also make use of cell phones as a medium for political communication. This is likely to be an effective strategy, as India has one of the fastest growing mobile markets, with an annual growth rate of 18% (CAGR) or roughly 5.5 million new subscribers per month.

With his web-based, bottom-up strategy of campaigning, Obama has been able to capitalize on a largely untapped, yet connected, youth population in America. Advani hopes to echo Obama’s success, and given India’s demographic landscape, he just may be successful. As the Post reports, more than two-thirds of India’s one billion plus people are under the age of 35 and a good portion of the youth are urbanized. But the party aims to utilize the Internet to attract voters of all ages. The head of the campaign’s technology initiative, Prodyut Bora, explains:

Obama’s site successfully created communities of supporters and voters. It was used to call a meeting of friends and plan events. We would like the Advani portal to enable millions of voters to connect with him and with each other. This would encourage people to become Advani’s local campaigners.

As observers, we will have to wait and see how successful a cyber campaign will be for Advani. I have to question how viable an Internet-based campaign strategy can be in a country like India, in which a substantial portion of the population is mired in poverty and where the digital divide between the rising class and the poor is so palpable. In the U.S., cyber-space is increasingly becoming the backbone of political campaigning. Not only is the Internet the first stop for information about the candidates and their policy preferences, but also it is a forum where people can express their own views about the presidential race, build enthusiasm for candidates, and even fundraise. The question remains if this type of environment can subsist beyond the highly connected, industrial democracies. In India and other developing countries, the Internet may be a useful mobilizing device for portions of the population, like youth voters and the urbanized electorate. But, given the constraints of mobile access in these countries, we will likely see the traditional pattern of top-down, offline campaigning continue well into the future.

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2 Responses to “Indian Nationalist Models Campaign After US”

  1. Will Indian Politicians ever use the power of Internet and Mobile? | BG Mahesh | Says:

    […] few of Advani’s camp went to the US to observe Obama’s campaign carefully. They have studied Obama’s online campaign plans before launching […]

  2. online campaign Says:

    The impact of internet on India elections differ from US elections. Yes online campaign is going to influence elections but only in urban India.Indian senior citizens are not that much internet savvy, so what all these means is Internet and online campaign is going to reach only for urban youngsters and entrepreneurs.Unfortunately, less voting had appended in metrpolitain cities of India as most of them go for holiday outing instead of voting.

    Please correct me if I am wrong about my views.