Advani cyber-connects to gather foot soldiers for campaign

via IANS published on January 17, 2009
New Delhi, Jan 16: The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) gambit to
cyber-connect with supporters ahead of the general elections seems to
be working, with 1,360 volunteers from all over the country signing
online to join prime minister hopeful L.K. Advani's campaign.

The strategy deployed for the first time by a major political party in
India started after the launch of Advani's website on
his 81st birthday Nov 8. Since then, the website has attracted nearly
200,000 hits and 500,000 page views. It has 2,100 registered members.

From the National Capital Region (NCR), covering Delhi and its
suburbs, 197 people have registered as online volunteers. Advani's
office wasted no time in calling a meeting of the volunteers on Makar
Sankranti Jan 14 -- the meeting, which was scheduled for two hours,
continued for four hours.

"More than 50 people attended the meeting and it was a huge success,"
Sudheendra Kulkarni, who has put together Advani's website, told IANS.

Barring three people, all those who attended were between the ages of
20 to 35. There were three women in the group and the party hopes more
will attend in the next meeting.

Those who interacted with the participants from the BJP included
Kulkarni and national convenor of the party's IT cell Pradyut Bora.

"All of them were from diverse professional and educational
backgrounds. A Meerut based electrician, a manager who handles a
private equity fund of several billions, IT professionals and
advertising executives came," said Kulkarni.

There were young lawyers practicing in the Supreme Court also. Many
are professional bloggers, already spreading the message of the BJP in
cyberspace, he added.

"All of them connected via Advaniji's website and that is what truly
marked the importance of the meeting. Never before in the history of
Indian democracy have citizens been activated and recruited through
the Internet like this," he said.

The participants suggested different ways to join the campaign and
explained what they could contribute.

One participant was of the view that the BJP should reach out to all
sections of India's diverse society.

The volunteers were asked to share their views on the country's
political situation, what prompted them to get politically active and
what they expect from a BJP government.

The volunteers zeroed in on five broad areas of engagement. Some
decided to contribute in creation and dissemination of content, both
online and offline.

Some agreed to assist in the website design, maintenance and
compilation of databases, some for policy research to contribute ideas
and suggestions for party's agenda of governance.

For several, the focus was on field-level mobilization of voters,
especially uncommitted voters, through multiple methods of campaign.

They also decided to popularise Advani's message to youth, 'Ek Kaam
Desh Ke Naam' (one work for the nation).

"By the next gathering, we expect around 500 volunteers from Delhi
alone. This model will now be replicated in other parts of the country

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