New Delhi, Jul 11: Eight-one-year-old senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishan Advani, who wants to become India's next prime minister has chosen an unlikely model for his election efforts, the Internet-based campaign of Illinois Senator and US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
According to the Washington Post, a small team of political strategists, computer specialists and management graduates in New Delhi has been studying Obama's speeches and slogans, Web site, campus outreach and rhetoric of change. The paper quotes Sudheendra Kulkarni, who is heading Advani's campaign, as saying that the targeted audience will this time include the 100 million first-time voters expected to enter the election landscape in 2009.
"We want to project the image of Advani around the idea of change the same way that Obama's message resonated with people's hunger for change," Kulkarni says.
More than two-thirds of India's 1 billion-plus people are younger than 35, making it one of the youngest emerging economies in the world. Rising income and aspirations, along with rapid urbanization, are forcing political parties to reimagine their old, top-down style of election campaigning.
Even though India is a parliamentary system based on the British model that stresses parties as opposed to leaders, the BJP has found that in the past few elections, personalized campaigns have reaped better dividends and worked well with young voters.
"Like the Obama brand, we need to create a buzz around Advani-ji," said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a BJP member of Parliament and a key campaign official.
The party predicts that, like in the Obama campaign, technology will play a central role in attracting the youth. It plans to use cell phones and the Internet as important media of political communication. India, with one of the world's fastest-growing cell phone markets, now has 185 million subscribers; 5.5 million are added a month.
Work on creating a Web site for Advani that is similar to Obama's is also underway.