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E-bandwagon-Bihar parties take fight to ‘virtual media’, following BJP and AAP’s success

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social-media-585481_640Impressed by the tremendous political benefits reaped by BJP and AAP due to high-voltage social media and high-end digital campaigning in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Delhi assembly elections respectively, Bihar parties too are eagerly jumping on to the e-bandwagon.

All the major parties – Janata Dal -United (JD-U), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Hindustani Awam Morcha – are making efforts to make their presence felt on the net for the forthcoming Bihar election. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also expected to shift its well oiled cyber machine to Bihar soon.

From interactive graphical representation of the work done by their parties and making promises on Facebook to sending interactive and informative messages on WhatsApp, they are doing it all to woo voters. “It’s the best way to engage the youth and first time voters. We have set up a ‘war room’ to ensure that we remain ahead of our rivals in digital campaigning,” K.C Tyagi, chief spokesperson of JD-U, told IANS over phone.

“We have seen how Prime Minister Narendra Modi quite effectively used the social media and high-tech campaigning in the 2014 elections to ride to power at the centre,” he added. According to Bihar’s information and technology department, an estimated 5 lakh out of the state’s total population of 110 million use the internet on computers while 20 to 30 million use it on mobile phones.

Tyagi says the 2014 general elections changed the way elections were fought in India. Although the tech-savvy campaign brought rich dividents for the BJP, he says it also raised the overall cost of fighting elections.

Abdul Bari Siddiqui of RJD, who is also leader of the opposition in the Bihar assembly, says that although the reach of social media among Bihar’s population was limited, yet one cannot “deny it’s positive and long-lasting effect on the public mind.”

Talking on the phone, Siddiqui said digital campaigning involved hiring of tech experts, setting up of media rooms and manning them round-the-clock.

Under the JD-U’s ‘war room’ strategy, 400 trucks equipped with TV sets, music systems, microphones and speakers will move from village to village and showcase the government’s achievements. The personnel manning these vehicles will also interact with villagers and their local representatives to get their ideas and suggestions for Bihar’s development in future.

Flash mobs and street plays are also being planned by JD-U to gain the support of the younger generation, which is expected to play a crucial role in the legislative elections expected to be held in September or October this year.

Parties opposed to the JD-U have started Facebook pages to engage people on the social media in the run-up to the polls.

So apart from the traditional methods like high-pitch sloganeering, colourful buntings, posters and large hoardings to grab the eyeballs of the Bihar electorate, e-campaigning will add more punch to the campaigning by political parties aiming to win a majority in the state assembly.

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)