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Rediff.com  » News » For Jaswant, technology, music and family fill the gap left by BJP

For Jaswant, technology, music and family fill the gap left by BJP

April 16, 2014 17:48 IST

Seventy-six is not an age to be plowing a lonely furrow in the heartless electoral fields of India, especially in Rajasthan, given the heat in summer, but Jaswant Singh, the expelled Bharatiya Janata Party veteran, is not exactly alone, says Rediff.com's Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

Coming to his aid in Barmer, his hometown where he is contesting from as an Independent, are the state's musical tradition going back centuries and a band of young, technology-driven troops.

What brings the two extremes together is the engine of the 21st century, technology.

While Jaswant Singh, veteran of many a electoral battle, does what he knows best, that is old world, personalised campaigning -- on camel back, open jeep, etc -- assisting him is the state's folk music of the Manganiyars (groups of hereditary musicians) that talks of battle, humiliation, avenging etc.

But music is only as good as the audience it gets. So when one of Jaswant Singh's backroom boys read about the special composition in the Darjeeling member of Parliament's honour, he decided to propagate it.

Which, in a rural, border district is easier said than done.

What came to the team's aid was the high level of cell phone penetration, and WhatsApp became their chosen mode of delivery of all their campaign material.

One of the team members, who refused to be quoted for this report, claimed that some 900,000 people in the constituency were on the instant messaging service, and through the use of various support groups, the song was broadcast to a segment so large that otherwise would have been impossible to reach, given the size of the constituency.

The original song was in honour of the local hero, Rana Pratap, and the Manganiyar musician Jamad Khan had altered the words from the original to relate it to Jaswant Singh.

Soon after, Khan contacted the MP's team with another composition of his, this one more campaign-oriented, and the two songs have since gone viral.

You can listen to the two songs: here, and here.

The band of youngsters working on Jaswant Singh's campaign -- with diverse backgrounds such as the World Bank, KPMG, Kingfisher Airlines, etc -- are all volunteers.

"We didn't have to do anything; we don't know the constituency, the language or the people, so we leave the actual electioneering to people who know it. What we have done is make the campaign electronic," says one of them.

"What we are doing would have ordinarily been done by the political party, but since he doesn't belong to one we decide to replicate the support," says another. "You can even say we are running a call centre kind of operation, with checks and time posts," he adds.

Thanks to them, Jaswant Singh has a healthy presence on Twitter (761 followers) and Instagram (#jaswantsingh).

"We don't want the wrong message to go out, so we have a system of triple checks so everything is carefully vetted before anything is posted social media," says a source close to the MP's family.

Then there is Jaswant Singh's family pitching in with his campaign.

While elder son Manvendra Singh, a BJP legislator from Rajasthan, has studiously kept off from the media after the party came down heavily on him for canvassing for his father against the official candidate, and refused to even be quoted in the matter, his younger brother Bhupendra is organising his father's election campaign.

Then there is Jaswant Singh's daughter-in-law Chitra, Manvendra's wife, canvassing for her father-in-law. On Sunday night, she was scheduled to take out a torchlight rally (Singh is contesting under the torch symbol) in Barmer town.

Image: Jaswant Singh with younger son Bhupendra Singh at the Rawalkot hotel, Jaisalmer, ahead of stepping out on his road show. Photograph: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com

Saisuresh Sivaswamy in Barmer, Rajasthan