By Neeraj Nanda
New Delhi, 28 April: The Indian Diaspora has been taking a keen interest in the Indian elections 2014. A glance at NRI websites and social media reveals how strongly NRIs are glued to the mother country. Election related news is prominent and no dearth of analysis. Debates have been raging over issues of development, corruption, women’s rights, farmer suicides, caste, and religion among others. There have been allegations of fake Likes and paid social media commentators. Most NRIs do not vote in the elections but are more than ready to give a comment on issues raised by Indian politicians or political parties.
The BJP and the AAP have overseas units in many countries and even help with funds. There are others also but are no matches to these two. The BJP has been in the field for many years and has ‘Friends of BJP’ organisation in a few countries. In fact, the Vajpayee Government started the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas’ each year to consolidate its hold on overseas Indians. But the recent elections have generated unprecedented interest and hence social media activity. The ‘Modi Wave’ is more visible in the virtual world. Debates take nasty turns as supporters and opponents of Modi clash over this or that. Swearing is not uncommon and communal venom prevalent.
The biggest twist or rather change took place with the advent of the AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal. The AAP started using the social media (Face book & Twitter) along with the You Tube in its political battle with the BJP and Congress. Live streaming of Kejriwal’s public meetings are popular like Modi’s stuff on You Tube. While the BJP in Delhi has been distributing video CDs of Modi’s speeches in youth meetings, the AAP youth are active posting AAP rallies and campaign stuff on Face book and Twitter. AAP graphics department seems to be manned by efficient fellows who dish out a graphic with text and immediately post it on social media.
The NRIs naturally get access to this stuff and get involved. The Western world is more connected than India and hence the NRIs involvement in the Indian elections.
Prabhat Shinglu, Delhi based senior free lance journalist says “The social media takes the message to the larger audience and includes the NRIs. “
“In fact, the AAP is basically the creation of social media. It is rising and projecting itself as an alternative to the Congress and BJP in the absence of a Third Front including the Left,” Prabhat says.
In many countries AAP support groups have emerged among NRIs and are actively working in the digital world. The consequence is there to see. Recently, there was a demonstration outside the venue of the Jazzy –B (Punjabi singer from UK) by AAP Australia activists because of his alleged association with the Akalis in Punjab. They have a website and are regularly holding meetings. Many a tussle can be seen between them and BJP supporters on the social media in Australia.
Interestingly, for the first time in many years the AAP has been able to crack the virtual BJP control over NRIs. One can disagree with it but a tour of the digital world brings this out. The anti-corruption slogan seems to be catchy in comparison to the ‘Hindutava’ crusade. Religion is important but other social issues are also coming to the fore. So, who supports whom?
Dr. Ahmad Cameron from IIT Delhi, IT professional and a keen observer of Indian politics in Canada says, “BJP & RSS have certainly taken the lead in using the social media plus sms and mobile communications. In that they have left Congress far behind. Catching on them in this race has been AAP by virtue of Kejriwal being an IITian.”
“Amongst the NRIs there are basically two types. First are those who come from Science, Engineering and Medicine background. Other who come from the social sciences, history, commerce, economics etc backgrounds. Interestingly overwhelming majority of the first kind are die hard anti reservation and pro BJP. It would be an exception if you may find from such a lot to be anti BJP and anti reservation.”
“Whereas the amongst the second lot majority are rational thinkers and are primarily anti BJP, pro Congress or pro AAP today.”
“The reason for this vast difference in perspective is due to lack of inputs given to science, engineering, medicine students about the history, economics, political science, literature etc. Hence this section is exceedingly brilliant in solving mathematical, engineering etc problems but the same lot even at IITs is devoid of working on projects which are of social relevance and social utility. This section in IITs yelled at every instance about merit based admission in such professional courses and were against all kinds of reservations, giving the argument that how can the engineering plants, life of human beings in hospitals etc be left at the hands of those who entered in such colleges under reservations. The irony today is it is this section which is hell bent supporting Modi whose only qualifications is his training in Shakhas! The whole premise of merit based leadership has evaporated which de facto confirms how myopic is the vision of these science, engineering and medicine professionals amongst NRIs because they have no comprehensive global and universal knowledge about societies, growth, development, environment, sociology, literature, psychology, etc to name a few, “ he says.
Meanwhile, the AAP has launched a 24-hour You Tube Channel (AAP TV) for showing videos, including Google hangouts and interviews with AAP leaders.
“This is one of the best uses of technology and does not cost us much. All we need for live streaming of events is a team of two persons – one to operate the camera and another to take care of the laptop end,” says an AAP volunteer.
The BJP is not far behind and the You Tube is full of Modi videos and other election propaganda. How much votes one gets this way is still to be determined. Other parties are likely to follow in coming times.
- SAT News Service