Will Indian Politicians ever use the power of Internet and Mobile?

We have been reading about Obama’s successful internet campaign for a while now. Now that he has won, there are tons of analysis floating around. I don’t have much to add as experts have written a lot about it. I will try to compile some of the highlights but I thought we should have some Indian ‘flavor’ to it.

India will have its elections in March/April 2009. Yesterday was BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate LK Advani’s birthday. His personal portal was released with grand fanfare on that occassion. Few reports mentioned the URL of  lkadvani.com. Not sure why the media doesn’t bother to check if the URL is the correct one or not. The correct URL is lkadvani.in. The portal includes 150 videos, 300 photographs and more than 700 pages with many interactive features.

Some highlights from Obama’s campaign on the internet

Advani’s camp was quick to recognize the power of Obama’s efforts on the internet. I believe 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 lkadvani.in.

Advani’s site is very detailed and most importantly it is bi-lingual – English and Hindi. Good to see they understand they importance of languages on the internet (I was always under the impression politicians understand only one language – money!). One major flaw in the design – they have not interlinked English and Hindi sections from inside pages. Interlinking is a must, else surfers of one language will not be aware of the existance of the other language version of the site. I am sure they will fix it soon.

Karnataka held its assembly elections in 2008. We carried few SMS campaigns for few political parties. None of the parties expected us to do it for free, which I welcomed (we wouldn’t have agreed to do it for free). But none of the Karnataka politician used the web to attract voters. They just don’t believe in that concept.

5-6 politicians in Karnataka have approached me for their portals, not for free but for a fee (another surprise!). They start off with great enthusiasm but it dies within no time. Their priorities change so fast that they just don’t see internet/mobile as an important medium to reach out to the voters. LK Advani recognizes there will be 10 crore (100 million !) first time voters in 2009 and he believe many of them will be reachable by internet and mobile. Good thinking.

So what should our politicians do in the internet and mobile space? Few ideas,

  • Political parties must clearly list their manifesto on their website. The website must be bi-lingual (minimum), better to have it in multiple languages. They surely can afford it, they have tons of unaccounted money!
  • Politicians must have simple and clear websites. Again it should be multi-lingual. In your an incumbent list your achievements from the current tenure, if you are trying to unseat the incumbent, list the things that are wrong in the constituency and what you will do to fix them. Try to get as local as possible.
  • Use the mobile user base to reach out to users. One can send language sms but it may not be always readable.
  • Use social networking sites to reach out to the young and educated voters (just like Obama did)
  • Provide all the information to the company which is developing the portal and after you deliver it would be best for them not to interfere in the development of the portal. They surely don’t understand, allow the experts to build the portal.
  • Be patient, don’t expect to win an election overnight because you went online.
  • And most importantly ‘Just cut the cheque ;-)’ My colleagues in the internet community will welcome it 😉


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