Intro: Primarily kicked-off to convert the 17 crore voters, who voted for it in the Lok Sabha polls, into its permanent supporters, the digital membership drive by the BJP has created a world record by surpassing the Communist Party of China (CPC). Till April 3, 2015, the party was close to enrolling 10 crore members. The experiment is seen as a milestone in making the people politically more literate in an easy manner.
With over 90 million membership strength, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is officially the world’s largest political party, surpassing the Communist Party of China (CPC), which has 8.6 crore members. Some might call it just an innovative use of digital technology, but political experts claim that by doing it the BJP has strengthened its grip over the electorates who voted for it during the last Lok Sabha polls. After all over 9 crore people, who willingly registered with the party through missed call from their mobile phones, cannot be hoodwinked.
|Country's political scene is changing… it is no more a matter of whether we are ahead of some party or behind. We have gone beyond that. Before digital India takes shape, there is a digital BJP already in place.”
—Prime Minister Narendra Modi while launching the membership campaign in Delhi on November 1, 2014
The high tech membership drive, kicked-off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 1, 2014, is scheduled to close on April 30. It was extended for one month because some State units were busy in Assembly or local body elections.
The prime objective behind the campaign was to reach at least 10 crore of the total 17 crore voters who had voted for the BJP during the last general elections. The Party is very close to achieve the target, as till the time of going to press on April 3, the party had crossed 9.20 crore mark. It is a massive growth for the 35 year-old party, which had about 35 million members in November 2014. Around 60 million members were added during the last five months only. On the other hand India’s grand old party, the Indian National Congress, has about 40 million members.
It is for the first time that any political party in the country introduced such a hi-tech and highly innovative system of enrolling the members. Since the new generation is hugely tech savvy, it was quickly picked up by them. That is why a major number of the newly enrolled members are youth.
Under the campaign one needs to merely dial a mobile number to register him/her. Apart from it, the party also used the hashtag #JoinBJP to appeal to its 7 million fans on Facebook and 1.47 million followers on Twitter. Once on the party’s website, one has to only fill in personal details and the BJP accepts it as an enrolment.
The whole campaign has been designed very minutely. Registration through missed call is the first stage. After that the party would send details to the local offices for verification. “After the registration process is over, we will undertake door-to-door meetings with these members. Our cadres will reach out to each and every member who has been registered through mobile phone. We will carry party letter to each of them. We will educate them about the party. This process will be undertaken immediately after the campaign, which will go on for a couple of months. During that period we will undertake a number of training programmes for the cadres at various levels right up to polling booth in urban areas and villages in rural areas. That process will also be undertaken in next couple of months. Details of it are being worked out at the National Executive meeting in Bengaluru,” says BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, while talking to Organiser.
The Congress might have questioned the output of the BJP campaign, it wasted no time to copy it. Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, not Congress president Smt Sonia Gandhi, launched a similar App on March 30 to enroll members. “Any person wanting to be a part of Congress can now apply through their smartphones,” DPCC president Ajay Maken told the media. The Congress drive will continue till May 15. However the party has not fixed any target of members like the BJP. “We have not set any target,” Ajay Makan added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 1, 2014, while launching the campaign had asked the cadres to make the party as diverse as India itself. “People from all sections of the society should feel they have a representative in BJP. Our country is full of diversities. BJP should also be visible as a party with diversities. Every section of the society should feel that their 'flower' is represented in this wonderful bouquet (of BJP),” Shri Modi had said.
Emphasising how unique the membership drive was, Shri Modi also asked the workers to make it a lesson for the democratic world. “We should invite 10-12 universities to study the membership drive. It's a lesson in democratic exercise. Let the world see,” he said. He also told the workers that they must remember that they were competing against themselves. “Country's political scene is changing… it is no more a matter of whether we are ahead of some party or behind. We have gone beyond that,” he said. Reiterating importance of technology in politics, Shri Modi said before digital India takes shape, there is a digital BJP already in place.
The use of digital technology is going to prove very useful for the cadre also. Now one person sitting anywhere in the world can communicate to crores of workers at a time. Especially the phone numbers provide a way to maintain 'live' contact with the members to update them on developments and explain decisions as well as the context in which they are taken.
By and large the digital technology is viewed as vehicles for propagating the party's policies and to counter the criticism of the opponents. This experiment is expected to prove a milestone in making the people politically more literate in a very easy manner. –Pramod Kumar