Politics takes a digital turn – editorials
Political parties are adopting the technology to reach their workers and voters, in times of the coronavirus disease pandemic (Covid-19). A report in this newspaper on Monday described how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has quickly adopted digital tools to launch a series of protests over the past week. The goal of these rallies is to reach 25,000-50,000 people. Each meeting involves meticulous planning, from regular calls with party workers on the ground to providing them with basic technical training. The BJP was one of the first to understand the power of social media and it is no wonder that it has now become the first party to innovate with mass protests. The BJP is also using these protests to pull out its report card on how the government has dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time when there is increasing criticism of its mistakes in handling health and economic crises. If the Opposition wants to present a solid critique of government performance, it would be good to launch its own mass communication efforts.
But this is not just about a particular party. There is no doubt that in the emerging new normal, there will be a change in the nature of political communication. The parties must adhere to the rules of social distancing; they must be responsible and not put their workers and voters at risk by organizing large demonstrations; and travel and mobility should be limited to essential activities. These campaign methods may also have the advantage of reducing costs for parties, and perhaps allowing those without resources to organize large demonstrations to participate in political discourse. The advantages of the digital mode of political disclosure should be exploited.
But there are concerns. These campaigns are mainly descending in nature. In live demonstrations, in smaller group discussions, and when leaders have to be on the ground, there is also a degree of bottom-up communication. Local workers and voters have the opportunity to convey their concerns, the problems facing their constituency, the social dynamics in a particular area, and describe their needs. It is important that digital communication is not only reduced to political leadership that tells people what they want to transmit, but also incorporates comments from the field. Otherwise, the existing disconnect between voters, on the one hand, and political parties, on the other, may deepen.