Ahead of elections, politicians get a unique platform

Ranvir Nayar

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) As India prepares for elections in five states, a New Delhi-based NGO has come up with a magic formula politicians have been looking for: a way to tell the voters what developmental activities they have undertaken in the past five years.

It is increasingly clear that people are voting for parties and individuals who believe in providing better governance.

However, since media coverage of politicians is mostly negative and generalised, everyone gets painted with the same brush. Little or no space is devoted to the constructive work done by many politicians.

But they need not despair.

NGO Shrishti has developed a unique platform, janpratinidhi.com. It is projected as the one- stop shop for any elected representative at any level -- from MP right down to gram panchayat or even student leaders.

'We need this because we need to save Indian democracy from our own contempt and cynicism,' said Jitendra Varma, president of Srishti and the brain behind the concept.

'To encourage positive polity, we need to highlight all the good deeds done by our elected representatives. This is especially true as the voters want development-oriented governance,' Varma told IANS.

It comes with a personalised virtual call centre for the politician, enabling the electorate to reach him day and night and also register their suggestions or complaints.

It can have a modern, personalised website, listing the activities of the politician -- whether inside or outside the assembly. There will be videos and pictures of their activities -- and speeches.

It allows a comparative rating of the elected representatives.

After over two years of intense preparation, NGO Shrishti is now ready to launch the forum in the public domain.

It already has developed the basic website with fundamental information about all the current and former MPs or legislators in the country. Now it is asking them to take the ownership of the platform.

The platform offers the additional option of addressing election meetings through a webcam, which can be projected in villages simultaneously, and allowing for live interaction with the voters.

Another attractive feature is that the platform can offer ready-to-use material like posters, manifesto or banners and flags which can be printed off the website in many places simultaneously, saving time and money.

Plans are on to launch an online Janpratinidhi of the Year Award.

The electorate will be told to give feedback on how their MP and other representatives are faring.

It wasn't easy initiating the concept -- in a country where many are weak technologically and cynical.

'Yet another challenge was the cultural diversity of India,' Varma said.

To overcome the numerous challenges, Srishti adopted some innovative means.

'We integrated mobile telephony with the internet to reach the billions; designed the portal thinking that computers were created without keyboards; and made the portal multi-lingual to accommodate all the major languages of the country,' Varma said.

(Ranvir Nayar can be contacted at ranvirnayar@yahoo.co.in)