Call him iModi. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has become India’s first political leader to have an ‘app’ for himself on the iPhone and iPad platforms.
Modi’s “official application” on iTunes, which can be downloaded for free (here), was released on 29 March (details here), and offers his army of followers on social media platforms another avenue to keep track of his – and his government’s – unfiltered message.
For now, the app, maintained by Modi’s official website administrators, disseminates news on the Gujarat government’s policies and programme implementation. Additionally, it harnesses multimedia elements, including videos of Modi’s speech, to showcase his political progress as well.
A section on media coverage milks positive narratives in the media, including the recent adulatory Time magazine cover story (and the Brookings Institution commentary) that created quite a buzz in media circles. App users can also send a message directly to Modi from the platform.
The app represents an inventive way for a political leader to send out and manage his government's message. But then, the Gujarat government has put technology to good use in other aspects of governance as well: one pioneering programme invokes technology to keep track of dropout rates in schools.
The launch of the iPhone/iPad app comes in the context of a “cyber political” battle being waged in Gujarat, ahead of Assembly elections, which are due later this year.
Modi’s tech-savvy team has been harnessing the power of social networking platforms – from Facebook to Twitter to blogs – to send out their message.
The principal Opposition party in the State, the Congress, too is getting in on the act, seeing the enormous leverage that can be extracted from online platforms. The Gujarat unit of the party has activated an IT cell that works to “counter the propaganda” put out by Modi and his men, and to “highlight the negative aspects of 10 years of misrule by Modi.”
It’s going to be an interesting war, only this time, it will be waged in an entirely new medium. For now, with the launch of his own app, it appears that Modi has stolen a march in the propaganda battle with the Congress.