As we head into the 2019 General Elections, there is a newer dimension to what is perhaps the most important general elections in the world’s biggest democracy. Apart from the political rallies, the door-to-door campaigning, the takeover of airwaves on FM radio stations and the usual excitement that exists around elections, there will be more this time around. The dimension we speak of is technology—the smartphone in your hand, to be precise. In fact, a whole array of apps and mobile websites which you can access from your phone, make this the most technologically advanced election ever. And this is just the start, expect a lot more apps to launch as we move closer to the elections.
The Neta app (free for Android and iOS) and the website (neta.co.in) lets you rate and review the performance of the various ministers at the center and state governments as well as the local MPs and MLAs. You can rate them on the basis of how you have perceived them to have performed and see how the others have rated and reviewed their performance. For instance, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, you can rate his performance on a score sheet of 1-5, where 1 is ‘very angry’ and 5 is ‘very happy’. Once you give your rating, you can then choose which areas you were satisfied with the prime minister’s performance (such as the Budget 2019, corruption, economic reforms etc.). According to the developers, around 20 million users have already rated politicians on the platform developed by Pratham Mittal. Similar pattern is followed for the other political candidates as well. While the election dates have been announced, the candidates are still being finalized by each party. What Neta app gives you right now is the people’s ratings of the candidates from the previous elections—perhaps a good hint for political parties whether a change is required this time around. In due course, when the candidates for each constituency are finalized, you will then get a clearer picture of the public opinion heading into election day.
The sheer amount of detail that Next Election (free on Android and on the web at nextelection.com) goes into is impressive. Not only can you rate the current political leadership at the centre and state government level, but also review and rate the performance of the of the opposition parties and leaders. The party piece of Next Election is the ‘issues’ aspect, where you can get into discussions and understands issues of national, regional or local importance (such as fake news, data protection bill, lynchings, schools, for instance), and lets you add your views. If it is about getting information to the people, there is a lot that you can try to wrap your head around with this app. The website is also optimized for the smartphone screen, which just makes life easier.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has its own array of apps geared up for the election season. There is the Voter Helpline app (free for Android)—this can be used to check for your name on the electoral rolls, register new voters, updating any voter details that may be outdated or incorrect and more. Then there is the cVIGIL app (free for Android) which lets users also pitch in to report violations of the moral code of conduct by political parties, in the lead-up to the elections. The app will register the location as well as the timestamp along with the photographic proof of the potential violations. The PWD app (free for Android) that is designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to complete the voter identification and registration process—the ECI will ensure that a booth level officer visits the voters who are differently abled at their home, to complete any remaining formalities for adding them to the electoral rolls.
Depending on your political leanings, this is when you would probably stay tuned in to the updates on the apps developed by the political parties and the netas themselves. The BJP has the Bharatiya Janata Party App while the Congress has the Ghar Ghar Congress app. The biggest app of the lot has to be the Narendra Modi app, which has clocked more than 10 million downloads on Android alone.
This is perhaps just the start. As the candidates for each constituency are finalized, voters will perhaps have a better idea of what is on the table—the issues, the personas and that is when the likeability aspects come into play. This is where apps such as Neta and Next Election will fill up a void, one where voters probably always didn’t get all the information (such as criminal cases against each party, what other voters are saying etc.).