india272.com will act as an online and on-ground volunteer platform to ‘collaborate, contribute and campaign’
New Delhi: In an apparent bid to enlist voters as stakeholders, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday launched a new website that it said will serve as a platform for the general public to provide inputs in order to shape the party’s electoral campaign.
With this, the BJP too has joined the campaign by political parties to use social media to tap young urban voters.
Christened india272.com—272 is the halfway-mark in the 545-member Lok Sabha—the website will act as an online and on-ground volunteer platform to “collaborate, contribute and campaign".
“This has been a dark decade of malgovernance for the UPA. We have an unsafe India and a distressed India," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “We intend to get feedback from the people through Facebook, Twitter and SMS."
There are around 78 million Facebook users in urban India, according to Mumbai’s Iris Knowledge Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). Most of the users are in the age group of 18-24 years, followed by 25-34 year age group.
The number of Twitter users in the country, according to the Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB), is about 20 million.
The Congress party, however, attacked the BJP’s anti-Congress Web strategy.
“I am glad that they are at least learning to copy if they cannot be original," party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury said. “They are in a complete state of disconnect and all that there is to them is attack and criticize the Congress party."
The Congress has announced plans for a social media conclave on the 22 August, with an address by the party’s vice-president Rahul Gandhi— its second in two months.
A study released and supported by the IAMAI earlier this year showed that 160 Lok Sabha constituencies are likely to be “highly" influenced by social media, while another 67 will see a moderate impact during the general election scheduled for 2014.
The website launched by the BJP on Wednesday said it will “aggregate top news and political content", helping it to “crowdsource ideas and solutions" in the run-up to the 2014 general election.
“This is a move towards using social media as a method of making people stakeholders in the campaign," said Abhay Dubey, a political analyst and fellow at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, a Delhi-based think tank.
Nirmala Sitharaman, national spokesperson of the BJP, said the website was not just aimed at boosting the online presence of the party.
“Those who do not use technology will also be included in this effort. This is not simply for people who are tech-savvy," she said.
The website would also serve as a digital platform to raise a cadre of volunteers for booth-level organizing and campaigning, and to enable one-to-one communication with candidates.
The BJP is not the only party using digital technology to try and collect content directly from users. Recently launched Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is testing electoral waters in upcoming Delhi elections in November, has made use of localized content across many social media platforms to further its political agenda.
“We have been doing this for the past six months. People have been contributing to us from across the world and contributing to our content," said Ankit Lal, the head of social media operations at AAP.
“The BJP is now trying to copy us."
The new BJP website has Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s photo on its homepage, and an entire section dedicated to him. Modi has significant online popularity, with more than 2.1 million followers on Twitter.
“I am sceptical about the influence which this strategy will have in dislodging established trends of voting among minorities and depressed classes," said Dubey.
“There might be many other techniques in use by other parties. But social media by itself will be hard pressed to sway voters in constituencies in which the BJP has no base," he added.