That thought has since then fructified into an Information and Communication sub-committee headed by Rajya Sabha MP Piyush Goyal, as part of the panels set up by the BJP on July 19 to look after various aspects of its poll campaign. The sub-committee in turn is helped by the partys IT cell, with an alumnus of IIT-BHU, Arvind Gupta, as convenor, and a Communication (or Samvad) Cell, headed by an MBA degree holder from IIFT (Indian Institute of Foreign Trade), Anupam Trivedi.
The BJPs IT drive includes a third arm outside the party fold: Rajesh Jain. An IIT-Bombay alumnus and one of the original IT entrepreneurs turned venture capitalists and serial entrepreneurs, he is working as a volunteer for the party.
Rajesh, Arvind and Anupam are the three pillars of my Information and Communication sub-committee, says Piyush Goyal.
While Gupta and his team look after digital and social media platforms, Trivedis men work on content development. Jain and his self-initiated team handle IT-enabled election management down to the booth level.
If anyone had doubts about how thorough this work was, Jain effectively removed these at a meeting in the Capital on August 18, according to those present. Asked to make a presentation before a gathering of BJP central office-bearers, state unit chiefs and state organisation secretaries, Jain took up former deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Modi as an example, used a software tool that crawls through the Election Commissions database of electoral rolls, identified the BJP leaders polling booth, then the other voters from his family registered there, and ended up finding that there were two voter cards issued to one member of Sushil Modis extended family. By then, Jain had the audiences complete attention.
Alternatively, the presentation showed that the software could be used to identify all the other voters who could be targeted through family members of Sushil Modi, for example. Extrapolated, Jain stressed, IT tools could be leveraged to identify the nearest BJP supporter to reach out to an undecided voter thus giving the party a large pool of people who may not necessarily be party workers to woo fence-sitters.
It was Narendra Modi who was learnt to have got Jain to make that August 18 presentation. A party functionary said they had been in touch for some time now, and must have met numerous times.
While Jain refused to comment, saying he was a volunteer, Goyal was more open, saying he first met Jain in January 2009 when he was looking at nationwide campaigning through SMS. While the plan did not materialise, Goyal says they became friends. Apart from his IT role, Jain is now also the national convenor of the Friends of BJP association.
Arvind Gupta started working full-time for the party soon after the 2009 elections, while Anupam Trivedi was involved with the 2009 Lok Sabha campaign as well. Both credit former BJP president Nitin Gadkari for their association with party cells now.
Goyal also credits a fourth pillar: an army of self-motivated volunteers. We plan to register 10 lakh online volunteers. We have decided to organise programmes in 22 cities to physically connect with about 10,000 volunteers, who would act as the frontline force to train and guide online registered volunteers.
These volunteers will not only help propagate the BJPs message, their locations and availability will be mapped for the benefit of party candidates. Online volunteers will also keep a watch on issues being flagged in the local media, generating crucial feedback.
On July 26, about 300 volunteers from 21 states, who had registered on the partys website, attended their first session, at the Delhi BJP headquarters, on creating a volunteer force that will reach out to unregistered young voters. Jain was present and addressed the gathering.
It was here that their task was specified as Mission 272+.
Goyal says their second brainstorming meeting drew a much bigger response. As Gupta and Trivedi both point out, separately, They all came spending own money.
A team of these volunteers has also launched an unofficial website (india272.com) to rope in more volunteers. Narendra Modis tweets, which now appear in 10 languages, are translated by a few such volunteers, sitting in different parts of the country.
While the exact number of online volunteers is a secret, the IT and Communication Cells had previously listed tens of thousands as keen to work for the BJP. The numbers have swelled ahead of the elections.
So, it appears, have the proponents of this new election tool. The subcommittee on framing a chargesheet against the UPA recently launched a website, for crowd sourcing.