October 21, 2007 11:50:49 pm
The younger generation of Nehru family has become money-spinning names in cyber space, thanks to cyber squatters whose commercial interest recently got a fillip with the appointment of Rahul Gandhi as AICC General Secretary. Since his appointment, there are many more ‘hits’ on the websites with the domain name of Rahul Gandhi.
Take for instance, rahulgandhi.com, a website hosted and promoted by kerala.com and indias.com. The host portals, flush with commercial advertisements are, in turn, operated by a US-based company, Worldviewer.com, Inc. The same company hosts many other portals including rahulgandhi.us, soniagandhi.org and manmohansingh.org. All these portals are inter-linked and the traffic to these sites is diverted to commercial websites selling advertisement space. Rahul Gandhi remains the most sought after political name in cyber space.
Nehru family is the latest victim of cyber squatters, a term referred to people who look to profit from other people’s trademark by getting domain names registered in their names. Many Indian companies have successfully sued these squatters and won back domain names.
It is not always about commercial interest, though. A Canada-based NRI named Rajesh Srivastava, who got the domain name rahulgandhi.net registered, has been a regular visitor to the AICC headquarters for the past two months. He claimed to have collected around 5,000 photographs of Rahul and other Nehru family members from newspaper clippings. He had put them on his website after getting the domain name about three years ago. His site does not offer commercial space.
About two months back, he said, he came to India and got in touch with Kanishka Singh, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, seeking further guidance about how to run the website.
“He (Kanishka Singh) asked me to surrender the domain name to him, which I declined. I have been trying to meet Rahul Gandhi but haven’t got an appointment so far. I am doing it for my love for Rahulji, Soniaji and the Congress. But I am not going to sell the domain name to anybody, not even to Kanishka Singh,” Srivastava told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, his visiting card, that reads — Rajesh Srivastava, rahulgandhi.net — wields enough influence at the AICC headquarters. It provides him access to senior party leaders.
Tom Vellaringattu, President and CEO of the US-based Worldviewer.com, Inc, too denied commercial interests.
“We got these sites registered so that these politicians could be accessible to the people. We are doing a public service,” US-based Vellaringattu told The Indian Express over phone. Interestingly, his site, rahulgandhi.com also offers a “contact form” stating that it should be used “only if you need to contact Mr Gandhi for private matters”.
The site gets a lot of feedback from people. One Yogendra Saxena from Chowri Bazar in New Delhi, for instance, wrote to the site requesting Rahul not to allow the replacement of Saral form with a new form and not to increase petrol price.
According to Vellaringattu, who hails from Kerala, the feedback is forwarded to senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid who told The Indian Express that he forwards it further to “concerned people” (Rahul Gandhi’s office). Rahul’s close aide Kanishka Singh was not available for comment despite repeated attempts by The Indian Express for the past four weeks.
Another website rahulgandhi.co.in is powered by smanik.com that provides content writing services. The website opens with a congratulatory message to Rahul on becoming AICC General Secretary from RB Chauhan, who claimed to be a Congress leader belonging to the OBC and who sees himself in the league of Uma Bharti and Shivraj Singh Chouhan!
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