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BJP kicks off makeover plan for Advani

By Aasha Khosa
November 10, 2008 12:36 IST
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The spin doctors of Lal Krishna Advani, who, at the age of 81, is leading the Bharatiya Janata Party's campaign for the next year's Lok Sabha elections, are working on an image makeover for him--from a hardliner Hindutva archetype to a modern-day leader.

The launch of the portal on the birthday of the BJP'prime-ministerial nominee on Saturday is part of the strategy that is aimed at making Advani strike a chord with internet-savvy Indians. The BJP estimates that at least 100 million young voters would be eligible to cast their votes for the first time in next election. "It is important for us to reach out to these young voters and also to cultivate our party and leader's image before the voters of tomorrow, who often visit the web," BJP chief Rajnath Singh said.

The plan involves shedding Advani's earlier image that likened him to Sardar Patel, India's first home minister whose uncompromising views on nationhood led to joining the fragmented territory into the state of India.

Prashant Bora, the young party activist from Assam who has designed Advani's portal, claimed that it was the largest portal of any Indian political leader. "There are some 20 websites launched by leaders in India but none is as comprehensive as this one," Bora claimed.

Advani's portal is the first bilingual portal--in Hindi and English--in India, he claimed.

The portal opens with an appeal by Advani to the netizens where he invites them to walk with him to fulfill their common dream of a modern and strong India. He asks the visitors to his website to express their expectations from the BJP freely. "This will help formulate our response," he says.

Appreciating Advani's habit of keeping pace with technology and the changing times, party chief Rajnath Singh said: "Some 15 years ago, I used to see Advanijji using a palm-top (computer) at which I could only stare from a distance."

Trying to sound like a modern-day politician, Advani on his 81st birthday said that the "internet had been a boon to political parties, which otherwise had to depend only on holding public rallies to communicate with the voters".

On a nostalgic note, the BJP leader recollected the days the political parties were at the mercy of the state-controlled All India Radio for conveying their message to the voters.

He said that during the anti-Congress upsurge in Andhra Pradesh, which saw the N T Ramarao's Telugu Desam Party sweep the poll in the state, the AIR had not mentioned the Telugu Desam Party's name even once. "It was only to inform the people about NTR's swearing-in that the AIR broadcast his name for the first time," he said.

The BJP has been organising interaction of students from the elite institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management with Advani. Two such interactions, one at Delhi and another at Bangalore, have already been held as party managers are planning more such events before the election.

The promotion of Advani's autobiography My Country, My Life is yet another effort being made by the BJP's campaign managers to reach out to the people on the eve of election. "The book's Kannada and Telugu versions have recently hit the stores, while the Tamil version is in the pipeline," said Venkaiah Naidu, party's vice-president.

According to Bora, the website receives highest hits--about 100,000 per month, which is a record for any book-related website in India. The book is also sold through the BJP's website.

Advani has placed the map of the promised Telengana state on his website's front page. This is obviously aimed at wooing the Telengana supporters, who are angry at the Congress party's lack of will to carve a new state from the present-day Andhra Pradesh.

US President-elect Barack Obama seems to be the immediate role model before the party as former governor General  (retired) S K Sinha has been lecturing the BJP leaders on the topic. "Obama's supporters across the world had received a thank-you message through e-mail the day after his election," he said.

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Aasha Khosa
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