Wanna Evaluate Your Leader Try Optimal Mark Recognition

Hyderabad: | Updated: Sep 22 2003, 05:30am hrs
Information technology is no longer a high-tech wonder. Today, one takes IT for granted, particularly when it comes to transmission of information and messages across the globe. No wonder then that IT has touched the Indian political parties also, for keeping in touch with their co-workers, tracking global trends, and campaigning for elections etc.

But the degree of IT usage varies from one party to another, and one region from another, and the tech-initiatives are more leader-driven rather than organisation-driven. Some parties, for example, have computers in their offices as just a symbolic gesture, while others are leveraging technology to fulfil the party goals. Also, some had started the IT drive years ago but lost steam mid-way. Whether it is websites, media and election cells or campaigning, there are wide gaps in technology usage.

Among the national parties, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a comprehensive website, which is regularly updated. According to reports, all BJP offices across the country are expected to be computerised by next year. An intranet connection would link all of them then. Early this year, all party presidents of the BJP also got videoconferencing facility. In contrast, it is even hard to ascertain the status of official websites of some other national parties.

However, down South, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), a regional party promoted by late NT Rama Rao in 1982, with its headquarter in Hyderabad, has revolutionised the use of high-end technologies to be close to the people. The use of technology has put us one step ahead of others while helping the party leadership maintain close rapport even with the primary members, Mr Umareddy Venkateswarlu, a senior leader of the party, said.

The party is using cutting-edge technologies for various purposes including propagating the ideology, keeping intact the contact between the ground-worker and the leadership, evaluating the performance of the leaders (from MLA to chief minister) and bringing order in the party through a transparent political administration.

Over the last two years, the party has developed a powerful database of over 450 GB with the particulars of over 20 lakh active members and 58 lakh ordinary members, covering about 25,765 villages and municipal wards. About four times, in the last one year, the data has been checked for its accuracy and we are in the process of issuing photo identity cards to all our active members, Mr PNV Prasad, chairman of the partys technology committee, told The Financial Express.

In another interesting twist, the party is conducting surveys at regular intervals in order to ascertain the opinions and demands of the people. The data is captured using intelligent computer recognition sheets (ICR) and optimal mark recognition sheets (OMR). It is scanned directly using high-impression machines and analysed with statistical tools. Also, highly scientific surveys are underway to evaluate the performance of elected leaders including that of the chief minister. Interestingly, as per the latest ratings, Mr N Chandrababu Naidu is a good chief minister, much better than what he is as a party president.

The party is using these surveys as an instrument to give opportunity to the elected leader to correct himself. It is always better that MLAs and ministers reform themselves based on peoples perception. If they fail to do so, the party may have to choose an alternative, Mr Naidu always reminds his party men.

Going a step further, the partys technology committee is now working to interface the database with the geographical information system (GIS) enabling the user just to click on the location map for viewing the data, Mr Prasad said.

While the party significantly leverages IT in internal party communications, the website for external communication is quite neglected. On this front, another regional partyAll India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is, however, much ahead. The AIADMK website, in Tamil and English, updates the information and photo gallery on a regular basis.

In Kerala, the only two parties where the leadership has taken pains to infuse IT into the grassroots are CPM (Communist Party of India- Marxist) and IUML (Indian Union Muslim League). From either side of the political divide, CPM and IUML have been vying with each another to groom computer communication skills among their cadres. State headquarters of both parties are networked.

On the forefront of the IT race is CPM, which has at least three district offices networked and three more are in the offing. AKG Centre, the party nerve-centre was computerised as early as 1998 and its school programme for cadres started utilising PCs for conducting periodic tests and making evaluations.

CPMs hostility to computerisation is a famed misperception, says MA Baby, CPM Central Committee member. How can a workers party be averse to a product of labour In the early stage, the party was only opposed to the labour displacement through computerisation.

On the other hand, in Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), the technological hub of all its political whirlwinds is the fax machine in its headquarters. Busy with the reconstruction work at Indirabhavan in Thiruvanan-thapuram, the chief party in the ruling front UDF is yet to think of computerisation.

Amidst the sprinkling of small parties in the ruling UDF and opposition LDF, the only party where the new guard has started ushering in IT is Kerala Congress (Jacob). In another splinter party of the Kerala Congress genre, where a young tech-smart minister has been downpegged to a party functionary, PCs loaded with sophisticated software have been shunted to dusty backrooms.

(with inputs from M Sarita Varma in Thiruvanathapuram & eFE Bureau in New Delhi)