There is always a lot of talk about how technology is evolving in the world we live in- how new technologies are emerging while old ones fall out of favor. If you want to see how technology is changing the world, just look at how kids and the younger generation use it. For instance, they collaborate on Google docs, they stay in touch via text and Instant Messaging, they take pictures and share them instantaneously via Facebook and Snapchat, they do mobile search to find restaurants and shops, and when parents are lost they are quick to use Google Maps to find the most convenient routes. In contrast, if you belong to a slightly older generation, here is what your technology life looks like – you email MS-Word documents and spreadsheets back and forth, you hear your kids say, “Mom/Dad, don’t use IE, use Chrome!”, you take pictures but you need your kids to upload it and give you a link that you can email to your family, you have a hard time switching from TV to DVD to on-demand, while recording TV shows that you love seems like rocket science. Ok, if you belong to the second category I won’t embarrass you any more.
Interestingly, the world of Indian politics seems to be evolving in a similar fashion. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) appears to be operating and forging ahead on a totally different “wavelength” than the rest of India’s political parties. For instance, the AAP launched a membership campaign with an ambitious target of 1 crore members. In an attempt to achieve its goal, the party has waived the membership fee of Rs.10 for a 15 day period. Today, anyone can become a member by submitting a form on the AAP website, mailing in a completed registration form or via SMS. There is no question that this is a brilliant move by the party and here is why. Generations of Indians have never known what it’s like or what it means to be the member of a political party. A large part of our population has never ever been a member of any party, no matter what their political leanings might be. The AAP has completely changed this notion with its massive membership drive. Firstly, the AAP has made the process of becoming a member very simple. Secondly, the party has run a time-bound promotion of sorts drawing from traditional retail marketing techniques, thereby creating a sense of urgency like never before.
The membership drive by the AAP is bound to have long-term implications for the party itself and Indian politics as a whole, much of which is not apparent now. For Indians who have never officially joined any political party in their life, the step of joining the AAP is a simple but momentous one. Firstly, it’s a sign that the AAP’s message resonates with them. Next, it gives the AAP a sense of where their fan base lies. The AAP can slice and dice the data to determine its strong and weak constituencies. Thirdly, there is automatically a shared sense of ownership and participation in the political process that India has not seen since the early days of Independence. Lastly and most importantly, the AAP will soon be able to communicate directly with its expanded member base in a heart-beat using all the latest technologies – Internet, SMS, social media, live streaming, you name it. As a result, the AAP will be able to reach out and mobilize its party rank and file, even without the help of the media. It will be able to counter negative campaigns much better and faster. It can plan and conduct referendums and seek inputs from its supporter base when desired. The traditional megaphone will be brilliantly complemented with a few mouse clicks that can carry the AAP’s message far and wide.