Monday, March 2, 2009

Congress loses battle of websites

For want of an up-to-date website, will the election be lost? This is a question that the Gujarat Pradesh Congress should ask itself. While Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is legging it across Gujarat, trying to attract professionals and youngsters to join his party, the website has not a single mention of his efforts. The website fails to list Rahul’s Youth Congress membership campaign for which he has already visited the state thrice. And though the whole exercise is being conducted to attract youngsters, most of whom are net-savvy, the site does not even have an online membership form! 

What’s more, BJP’s present MLA Devusinh Chauhan, who had defeated senior Congress leader Narhari Amin in Matar assembly, is displayed on the permanent invitee list of the state Congress on its website. Devusinh was a Congress leader. But the BJP offered him the Matar seat in 2007 assembly election and he won from that seat under the BJP banner.

The BJP has been tapping the power of the Internet since the last elections. This time, to portray its 81-year-old prime ministerial hopeful L K Advani as an experienced man with a young heart, the party members have created an exhaustive website. It has 800 pages, 250 videos and 4,000 photographs and is interactive! The party has even put out five ad campaigns on 2,000 websites, including those of the US, British and Pakistani media, which are frequented by Indians. 


In contrast, the Gujarat Congress has not even updated the list of their new office-bearers. “I heard Rahul Gandhi was in Ahmedabad. Thinking that the Gujarat Congress website would be the best place to check out for news and photographs of the visit, I logged on and received a shock to see how behind times Congress was. Rahul has been visiting the state like never before to strengthen the party base, and there was not a single word about his work. If the Congress wants to enrol youngsters, the first thing it should have done was upload an online membership form. Even that is missing,” said Dhaval Karia, student of Gujarat University. 

Prashant Makwana, a young entrepreneur who checked out the website after Rahul’s visit, said: “Even the party press release is from 2008. The website mentions a cycle yatra and Janmitra programme which was held before the last assembly elections. 

But, recent party programmes like Abhay Udaan — attended by Rahul Gandhi — were not listed. The Congress talks of Rajiv Gandhi’s 21st century dream. The National Knowledge Commission is headed by Sam Pitroda, who is fully backed by the Congress. And yet, their website makes it clear that they have to usher in the IT age.” 


In the war of websites, Gujarat Congress lags far behind the BJP’s IT cell which has 75 office-bearers to maintain their websites and other IT dealings. 

  When this reporter contacted Congress state president Siddharth Patel, the leader asked him to call back later. Contacted the second time, Patel said: “We have upgraded the website.” The site now has photographs of Abhay Udaan and a ticker blinking the message ‘Join Youth Congress’. However, Devusinh continues to figure in the invitee list, and the membership form still remains missing. 

Taking a lesson from Barack Obama’s book, Rahul Gandhi had also planned to launch a website where the youths could share their ideas on framing policies. However, all his efforts to enrich the state Congress with young blood may go down the drain, if the party fails to realise that out of site is out of mind in this age of technology.


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