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In India's Silicon Valley, Parties go Full Throttle to Get IT Votes

For the first time in Karnataka Assembly elections, political parties are giving a special attention to voters from the IT and IT-enabled services. The “Silicon Valley” of India, Bengaluru, is home to over 40% of the total IT workforce in India.

D P Satish | CNN-News18dp_satish

Updated:March 10, 2018, 9:43 AM IST
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In India's Silicon Valley, Parties go Full Throttle to Get IT Votes
It is an irony that the Congress which is responsible for the IT boom in Bengaluru made no serious attempt to appeal to IT professionals. (Reuters)
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Bengaluru: Nitin is in his late 20s and is a software engineer at a top IT company in Bengaluru. He is from Delhi. Every morning he knocks on the doors of his fellow IT professionals seeking votes for the BJP in the Karnataka Assembly elections due in two months. He claims that he is the in charge of three apartment blocks and visits potential BJP voters every morning.

Speaking to News18, Nitin said, “Our company policy prohibits us from participating in political activities. If they come to know they will definitely act against me. But human beings are political animals. We can’t be mute spectators. We too have ideologies. Local BJP people have made me in charge of 60 voters, all from IT industry”.

He said that there were many IT political activists like him. He also adds that majority of them he knows are from north India and they mostly campaign for the BJP.

For the first time in Karnataka Assembly elections, political parties are giving a special attention to voters from the IT and IT-enabled services. The “Silicon Valley” of India, Bengaluru, is home to over 40% of the total IT workforce in India. Even though there is no authentic data, there are about 12-15 lakh IT professionals in Bengaluru says an industry watcher. Including their family members, there are at least 25 lakh voters who are directly linked to the IT industry. According to revised voters list, Bengaluru city alone has 86 lakh registered voters. There are 28 Assembly seats in the city.

According to data accessed by News18, the demographics break-up in the IT sector based on linguistics is Kannada 40%, Tamil 15%, Telugu 20%, Hindi 10%, Malayalam 5%, and the rest 10%.

The IT professionals from outside Karnataka live closer to IT hubs like Whitefield, Electronics City, Sarjapura Road and Manyata Tech Park in Eastern and Southern parts of the city.

It is an irony that the Congress which is responsible for the IT boom in Bengaluru made no serious attempt to appeal to IT professionals. The third player JDS always stayed away from them. The BJP which had sensed an opportunity walked away with a large chunk of IT votes in the previous elections.

The ruling Congress seems to have woken up to the reality and is now making an attempt to woo these voters. Since most people working in the IT sector live in gated apartments, they are referred to as “apartment voters” by the locals.

Speaking to News18, Karnataka IT, Biotechnology and Tourism minister Priyank Kharge said that the Congress was also getting IT votes in big numbers. He said, “The BJP organises “IT Milans”. We have come out with a new initiative called “Nanna Karnataka (My Karnataka) to woo first-time voters and the youth. IT is also a part of it. We are planning about 60 Townhalls across the state and half of them will be held in Bengaluru. The youth and IT people are excited. Unlike the BJP, we take uncomfortable questions from the people. We try our best to convince them”.

He said that the Siddaramaiah government’s IT, biotechnology and start-up policies and initiatives have won the Congress praise from all quarters.

Kharge said that there are about 15 lakhs IT professionals in Bengaluru and only 65% of them are the registered voters here.

But the BJP is already miles ahead of Congress and JDS in catching the software voters claim its local poll managers. Noted political scientist Dr. Sandeep Shastri said, “People in the tech industry are mostly from the upper class and upper middle-class background. More than the BJP, they are supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2014, he appealed to them and a majority of this section voted for him. Because then he represented innovation, reforms etc. This segment can be easily swayed by effective communication. The BJP led by Modi has mastered the art of effective communication”.

Dr. Shastri said that in 2012 he did a survey on political aspirations of young people in the age group of 16–34 and most answered, “I love democracy, I hate politics”. “This group does not know how a democracy works. They seem to be divorced from realities and functioning of democracy. There can be no democracy without politics,” he added.

The BJP has identified booth level IT workers and are using them to woo other software professionals. It is also planning to organise a meeting of IT CEOs and professionals with Union IT and Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad at Whitefield in a month. BJP spokesperson S Prakash says about 250 CEOs and over 3,000 professionals are expected to attend this meeting.

The JDS has also started an IT cell and trying to woo Kannadigas working in the software industry. A few months ago JDS state chief H D Kumaraswamy held a meeting with IT professionals seeking their support.

Saravanan, a senior software engineer at a global tech major, throws some light on voting patterns. “It is true that IT people from Hindi speaking states vote mainly for the BJP. But the IT professionals from states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal etc are not hardcore BJP voters. Regional parties and communists are strong in these states. Many of them vote for other parties. It is wrong to say that all votes go to BJP,” he said.

Pro-Kannada organisation Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) has also formed an IT cell to fight for the rights of Kannadigas in the industry. Arun Javagal, a leader of the new age Kannada activism, said that they have decided to back the party which fights for the primacy of Kannada and Karnataka.

| Edited by: Puja Menon
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