In Digital India, government is using free smartphones to lure voters: Report

Chattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh has promised a free smartphone in every house in 8 zones of Raipur Municipal Corporation

Politicians promising food in every house or colour TVs or mixer-grinders, just before election season is now passé. Voters are now being wooed with technology.

Free smartphones, to be specific.

Xiaomi. Image: tech2/ Prannoy Palav

Xiaomi. Image: tech2/ Prannoy Palav

According to a recently published report by The New York Times, in the state of Chattisgarh, chief minister Raman Singh has promised a free smartphone in every house. But that's not where the campaign stops. These phones are further being used by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) minister to ring up the voters and ask for their continued support in the upcoming elections.

"...this election season, many of the 2.9 million people who have received the phones have found themselves targeted by the BJP ", the report reads.

The state government has reportedly hired 350 call centre contractors in Raipur, Chattisgarh's capital, to poll these constituents about their satisfaction with the ruling party. According to some of the 2.9 million users who got free smartphones, they have been getting calls asking about their experience with the device and mobile service. They are also being asked about their satisfaction with government-related programs and which parties they intend to vote for.

According to the report, BJP is studying the data gathered from these calls and then sending party activists to speak to the voters if they have expressed a desire to vote for non-BJP parties.

The BJP government in Rajasthan, which is going to hold state elections in December, is also subsidising phones and data plans for residents, and party leaders are considering extending the model to other states.

Many governments are also known to use tools like WhatsApp and Facebook to promote their parties. You can read the complete report here.

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