Will Indian politicians follow in Obama’s e-footsteps?
As the dust settles on a two-year-long election campaign that has now given the United States its first African-American president in Barack Obama, I do wonder if there is a message for Indian politicians from the messenger of change… at least from the way he ran for the White House.
Obama aka ‘the digital candidate’ left no stone unturned in the race to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For a man who managed to draw crowds in tens of thousands wherever he spoke, Obama realized early in his campaign that his message of ‘change’ had to spread well beyond Democrats and the undecided voters. He wanted America’s youth to be on board and he ensured they did.
He reached out to them by making himself accessible online. Obama used Web 2.0 with a passion, engaging and interacting with them on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and also used new platforms like podcasts, online video and text messages to get his message across.
Rahul and his team of young Congress leaders like Milind Deora, Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia are known to data-mine and number crunch to understand their support bases. Even the BJP’s Arun Jaitley is said to maintain an extensive data base of electorates and voting patterns in states and constituencies.
Some of them have Facebook groups dedicated to them, but none with more than 500 supporters- a pittance in comparison to Obama’s three million.
Are Indian politicians missing out on an opportunity at a time when voter apathy is only growing? There are actually messages on Rahul Gandhi’s Facebook group page (which has less than 100 members) where a member has requested him to log on so they can interact with him.
So why not organize their appeal for votes in a more effective manner?
Not only will they be reaching out to an enormous and often untapped vote bank, (India has about 50 million internet users according to a Research and Markets report) but they will also be able to build a database which can prove invaluable in the future.
Obama went as far as hiring Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook as his online campaign strategist.
I’m not sure if Mr. Hughes will be available for the Indian general elections, but isn’t a future Prime Minister ready to take his campaign online?