The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Techno Modi vs tradition Vaghela

Ahmedabad, Nov. 27: The BJP swears by technology, the Congress believes in old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing.

Narendra Modi, who has reinvented himself from being just another BJP organisational hand to tomorrow’s “superhero”, has used every available technology to promote himself: from machine-produced hoardings, which appear more true-to-life than the hand-painted cut-outs of the past, to the Net and the SMS.

The Gujarat BJP’s economic cell convener and media in-charge, Yamal Vyas, who has worked with the caretaker chief minister since 1991, said computers and “technology literacy” are close to Modi’s heart.

The Congress, on the other hand, has moulded its chief ministerial candidate, the older and, some say, shrewder Shankersinh Vaghela, as a “grassroots” leader whose only mantra is development and prosperity.

A cut-out outside the state Congress office in Ellis Bridge shows Vaghela flashing a smile as he hands a rose to a child.

The BJP’s hoardings depict Modi as a swadeshi superman in kurta-pyjama with the “iron will” to destroy the enemy — a macho image young voters were yearning for, Vyas said.

Underlying the technology versus the personal approach were hard political considerations. Jagdish Bhavsar, the BJP’s zonal spokesman, said the party’s main target group in these elections are youths between 18 and 25, most of whom are likely to be first-time voters.

“For them, Modi enjoys the same degree of popularity as Rajnikant in Tamil Nadu. But this section also happens to be tech-savvy even if most of them are semi-literate by which I mean they aren’t too fluent in English,” he said.

For instance, as many as 20,000 to 30,000 BJP workers in Gujarat are adept at using the SMS. Modi tested out their skills when he fought his byelection from Rajkot-II.

The BJP’s “SMS masters” have been instructed to impart their skills to the “unlettered” and ensure that by December 12, when Gujarat goes to polls, Modi and his strategists are thoroughly briefed on what is happening in each and every booth through the short messaging service.

The Net is another tool the BJP hopes to use, though it didn’t sound as optimistic about its outcome as the SMS. Modi, a Net addict, tried it out in the 2000 municipal elections. His bete noire Haren Pandya, who doubled as the BJP’s spokesman then, used to have a live chat every night with voters.

Congress spokesman Hasmukh Patel said: “We will not bother too much with SMS and the Net because the percentage of those who use them is very small.”

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