Thursday, September 25, 2014

Maharashtra politicians seek mandate over messages, get voter list apps - Times of India, Mumbai;postID=4757153206665669094

Maharashtra politicians seek mandate over messages, get voter list apps

MUMBAI: The wrangling over seats has delayed most parties' candidate lists, but Vidhan Sabha hopefuls are already hard at work, roping in technology to make up for time. As the wait for party approvals drags on, some candidates have hit social media and messaging platforms to gauge support. Other politicians, certain of their candidature, are using mobile apps to scan voter lists and plan their campaigns.

In fact, local software companies have won over several Maharashtra politicians, like Ajit Pawar, Nawab Malik and Ram Kadam, with mobile apps that promise a smooth run of this election.

The apps allow users to download voter lists for specific constituencies, do searches based on gender or location and send messages to select voters. Though some campaign managers are sceptical about these apps, politicians are not taking chances with tales of how technology won the recent Lok Sabha elections still doing the rounds. "If you don't adopt technology, you will become outdated na?" says Malik, the NCP spokesperson and MLA from Anushakti Nagar. He says his Voter List of Anushakti Nagar app has received a good response.

Jiten Gajaria, convener of the BJP's social media cell, says apps can be used to fine-tune data. "If somebody has moved house or got married after the LS elections, I can revise my data so that campaign material reaches all," he says.

The technology, available even during the LS polls, seems to have taken off in Maharashtra now. Pune-based Tushar Nikam's KTech Beans Software has 49 apps under the Rajyog brand. "I expect 100 more projects after tickets are finalised. Many are waiting before investing," says Nikam, whose mobile app costs Rs 25,000, while a desktop version is available for Rs 50,000. However, some politicians say such packages are priced upwards of Rs 1 lakh. Nikam says bickering over seats won't have an impact as workers can use these apps even on the last day. He adds downloads will pick up 10-15 days before polling when campaigning is at its peak. "When voters come to booths, workers can enter details have a final tally from each booth at the end of the day," he says.

"It takes time to make people adopt a system. Unless your workers are committed, how will you put these apps to good use?" says Dilip Chalil, head of the Congress's IT and social media. A campaign manager claims the profusion of apps is directly proportional to politicians' gullibility. "Many think apps are the same as social media and businessmen are making a packet out of this," says the manager.

But tech-savvy politicians would disagree. Panvel MLA Prashant Thakur, who joined the BJP on Tuesday, earlier sent out bulk SMSes to people in his constituency. "Do you think Prashant Thakur should fight this election? If yes, then give a missed call on...," the SMS said.

Vinod Shekhar, a Congress aspirant from Colaba, too sent bulk messages and voice mails to voters in his constituency asking if they support his candidature. "This election we have very less time for canvassing," he told TOI. Krishna Hegde, a Congress incumbent from Vile Parle says he sought people's mandate through his Facebook account. "Candidates will not get much time for campaigns so they are adopting such measures," says a PR consultant who handles social media drives for politicians.

BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, "While taking up such campaigns one should remember they are also encroaching upon people's privacy. BJP and many other parties have done such campaigns in the past but at times people rejected such practices through their mandate," he said.

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