MORE THAN 100 of 332 candidates in the fray for Mumbai’s 36 Assembly seats have used the MumbaiVotes Candidate-Profile App, an automated audio visual and text-based profile creation widget, to upload video messages to residents on their track record in public life and their agenda for the constituency if elected.
These include 38 Independent candidates, 11 each from BSP and VBA, eight from MNS, six from Congress, three from AAP and one from NCP. Their video messages are then assimilated into each candidate profile on the MumbaiVotes portal. Mumbai Votes is a non-partisan civil society group that runs the Informed Voter Project.
Vivek Gilani, founder of Mumbai Votes, said the mobile application to upload videos “humanises” the candidate for voters and thus amplifies how vested they feel in their voting decision. It is a low cost video-capture of a candidate’s pitch to her or his electorate and is a service available freely and fairly to all candidates.
Gilani said state elections in Mumbai routinely witness over 400 candidates for 36 seats, and civil society groups trying to profile these candidates for residents to make an informed voting decision have only about 12 days after nominations are filed to complete the process.
“Teams of more than 15 research assistants are recruited, trained and managed during these exercises. They conduct approximately two to three physical video ‘interviews’ everyday but this process is wholly inadequate for addressing the data collection and analysis load. As an illustration, the 2012 BMC elections witnessed more than 2,800 candidates. We wanted to profile them and disseminate information about them all, but within 12 days, the research process yielded merely 15 per cent coverage or approximately 400 candidate profiles.”
The app, developed by Mumbai Votes for just Rs 80,000, allows candidates to upload three-minute video interview about their work, their agenda for the constituency, their manifesto, etc. The entire exercise takes about five minutes and is a simple tool to reach voters who do not attend rallies or candidates’ public meeting. “It also builds some political culture in the city — making our elections ‘issue’ based, since that’s what the videos focus on. Videos are rejected if they only contain rhetoric and no specifics about their agenda,” Gilani added.
While Mumbai Votes is hopeful of about 200 candidates using the app to upload video messages by the time campaigning ends, Gilani said BJP and Shiv Sena candidates did not respond though the group contacted party coordinators and leaders. “There appears a sense of resignation even in their own central teams to get candidates to do anything,” he said.
Mumbai Votes has also written to state Chief Election Officer Baldev Singh, requesting an endorsement in order to encourage candidates to use the app. “We propose that this be seen as intrinsically related to the ‘fairness’ mandate of the Election Commission’s Office as this effort is rooted in equity and treats all candidates equally, irrespective of power, position and privilege as political entities in our society. They all get the same time and space to articulate their vision to their voters —- the very essence of fairness is embodied through this neutral civil-society operated and controlled medium,” the letter stated.