Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks to be actively pursuing his plan of using technology for electoral gains. On Thursday morning, the prime minister will interact with people from villages that have been electrified across India since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) came to power in 2014.
It's not new for Modi to try and reach people in the rural areas using targeted communication; even those places which aren't synonymous with technological development. Through initiatives such as the 'Narendra Modi Mobil App', Digital India, his radio address Mann Ki Baat, Twitter, MyGov portal etc., the prime minister has been using unconventional channels of communication to deliver his message to the masses.
In October 2013, Modi had a mere 2.48 million followers on Twitter. That number has today swollen to 43.1 million on the micro-blogging site, making him the third most followed leader on Twitter after US president Donald Trump and Pope Francis.
Be it talking to women self-help groups, or launching a survey on the NaMo App to assess the four years of governance, Modi has been pushing to use technology as a means for "development, not destruction". Till date, the NaMo App has been downloaded over 50 lakh times.
Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February this year, Modi had warned against the misuse of technology and said, "On the other side, we are investing large portions of money, time and resources in missiles and bombs. We must use technology as a means to development, not destruction."
According to Modi's official website, he views "technology as something that is easy, effective and economical, combining speed, simplicity and service".
During his tenure as prime minister, Modi has also visited tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Tesla in US' Silicon Valley and met with tech entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella. During a visit to the US in 2015, Musk even gave Modi a tour of Tesla Motors and the two discussed how technology can aid development, particularly in rural areas and in agriculture.
Modi has used technology to talk directly with farmers, the beneficiaries of the central schemes and upcoming entrepreneurs of Digital India. "It is altogether an innovative way of establishing connect between the ruler and the ruled," wrote Ajay Singh for Firstpost.
Technology during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign
It's not like Modi's thrust on technology suddenly manifested after he became prime minister; it actually played a crucial role in his campaigning during the 2014 general elections as well.
He addressed more than 800 rallies at the time through the use of a hologram, allowing him to speak to the world's largest electorate at rallies across dozens of remote towns. It was believed to be the first use of hologram technology in a general election in India, according to The Telegraph.
Social media also became a vital political campaign tool, and Modi managed to reach out to first-time voters to help a 'Like' transform into a vote. According to a Quartz report, Modi had eight million followers on Facebook in 2013, a number which crossed 11 million by the time the general elections were announced on 6 March, 2014. By 12 May, 2014, he was the second most-liked politician on the social media platform, only after Barack Obama.
According to Business Today, the launch of NaMo smartphones, Modi-related phone apps, Modi games and even Modi ringtones were commonplace during the Lok Sabha election campaign in 2014. Google Play Store even had a string of apps based on Modi, including games such as 'Super NaMo' which challenged players to survive through the ups and downs of politics and 'Modi Run', which was similar to 'Temple Run', where the he moved through states, collected votes and became the prime minister.
As reported earlier on a Firstpost article, as Modi is likely to continue using a scientific pattern for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well instead of the common "something for everybody" strategy.
Updated Date: Jul 19, 2018 08:56 AM