Between cup and lip

Politicians leverage technology to project an illusion of presence, openness — as in ‘chai pe charcha’.

Published:February 14, 2014 2:32 am
Politicians leverage technology to project an illusion of presence, openness — as in ‘chai pe charcha’.

Politics trades in symbolism, and it is no surprise that prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi would attempt to marry his modest origins story with the meanings contained in a cup of chai to woo voters. Modi took his “chai pe charcha” a step further. He used the tools made available by new technology to beam this “footpath parliament”, as he called it, to chai stalls in multiple cities.

But while Modi has been especially adept at weaving the opportunities afforded by technology into his campaign strategy — remember the 3D projections of the Gujarat chief minister at rallies during the 2012 assembly campaign to create the illusion of his presence — he is far from the only politician to have recognised the possibilities inherent in such tools. On Wednesday, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav announced a “talk to your CM” Facebook campaign.

New technology has always had an impact on how politicians communicate with their constituents. If radio and then television changed how leaders could reach citizens, especially during elections, social media presents another advance. It allows politicians to combine the virtues of traditional door to door messaging with the detached efficiency of mass communication by enabling them to scale up the personal and simultaneously address hundreds, even thousands, of voters scattered across the country.

Twitter and Google Hangouts offer another advantage. Politicians can set the agenda, uninterrupted by pesky cross-questioning. The interactive potential of social media can be harnessed to project the image of an accessible, accountable representative. But the level of control leaders can exercise over the discussion means that the spontaneity of such an interface is ultimately as much of a mirage as a 3D hologram.

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  1. M
    Mahi Kumari
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm
    Mr Modi, please share with us (and with all the governments of the world) how exactly you are going to persuade Swiss banks to release the names and money of their customers. The Swiss wouldn't release names of their customers even if they were wanted terrorists. And yes, will you include the accounts of the your best buddies, the Ambanis and Adani, because they have set up multiple foreign accounts for every member of their family?
    Reply
  2. M
    Mahi Kumari
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm
    Mr Modi, please share with us (and with all the governments of the world) how exactly you are going to persuade Swiss banks to release the names and money of their customers. The Swiss wouldn't release names of their customers even if they were wanted terrorists. And yes, will you include the accounts of the your best buddies, the Ambanis and Adani, because they have set up multiple foreign accounts for every member of their family?
    Reply
  3. M
    Mahi Kumari
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm
    Mr Modi, please share with us (and with all the governments of the world) how exactly you are going to persuade Swiss banks to release the names and money of their customers. The Swiss wouldn't release names of their customers even if they were wanted terrorists. And yes, will you include the accounts of the your best buddies, the Ambanis and Adani, because they have set up multiple foreign accounts for every member of their family?
    Reply
  4. K
    Komal Tanwar
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm
    BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi a political Icon who calls himself "Chai Wala" in the begining of his career... Now one Chai Wala MR MODI is not ready to face other Chai Wala's in person... What a great personality can easily forget there people. And He is ready to rule w county as PM.
    Reply
  5. K
    Komal Tanwar
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm
    BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi a political Icon who calls himself "Chai Wala" in the begining of his career... Now one Chai Wala MR MODI is not ready to face other Chai Wala's in person... What a great personality can easily forget there people. And He is ready to rule w county as PM.
    Reply
  6. K
    Komal Tanwar
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm
    BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi a political Icon who calls himself "Chai Wala" in the begining of his career... Now one Chai Wala MR MODI is not ready to face other Chai Wala's in person... What a great personality can easily forget there people. And He is ready to rule w county as PM.
    Reply
  7. K
    Komal Tanwar
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm
    BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi has done nothing to curb black money menace in Gujarat, a state ruled by him for about 12 years. If he had any will to unearth black money, he would have acted against real estate barons of Gujarat who openly quote 50:50 or 40:60 ratio in all their deals.
    Reply
  8. K
    Komal Tanwar
    Feb 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm
    BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi has done nothing to curb black money menace in Gujarat, a state ruled by him for about 12 years. If he had any will to unearth black money, he would have acted against real estate barons of Gujarat who openly quote 50:50 or 40:60 ratio in all their deals.
    Reply
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