03 August, 2021

Weapon Of Mass Seduction

BJP was the first to harness the power of digital media for electoral gains. Other parties are playing catch up, slowly.

Weapon Of Mass Seduction

In the run-up to the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, when late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan was setting up the high-tech war room at his residence, 7 Safdarjung Road, he told his party colleagues that the age of conventional elections was over—it was time to go online. A national voter database was prepared, lakhs of emails and SMSes were sent out and cell phones and landlines bombarded with pre-recorded voice messages of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Teams were assigned to monitor news channels 24/7 and forms filled, detailing time, date and name of channels airing “negative” stories. They were to be dealt with later by the media-savvy Mahajan. The BJP’s tech-driven ‘India Shining’ campaign, flopped in dramatic fashion despite the hype created around it and Mahajan had to take much of the blame for the no-show. But the campaign marked a tectonic shift in the way parties would approach elections in the future.

Since then, the BJP has mastered the art of using the digital media space—more than any other party in India—and...

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