Bridging the gap: Apps that are bringing voters closer to their leaders

A tech-driven election: From providing information about the upcoming Lok Sabha polls to assisting voters in making an informed choice, there are apps and web-based platforms that are bringing voters closer to their leaders

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Amidst the uproar that this election season has witnessed, technology seems to be paving the way in terms of providing information and assisting voters in making an informed choice. Many apps and web-based platforms have been launched to bring voters closer to their leaders. Approximately 900 million Indian voters are expected to cast their votes in the elections, which are scheduled to be held in seven phases across the country, from April 11 to May 19, to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha.

At least 2,000 election-related apps have been launched in the past couple of months alone. Besides apps, there are web-based platforms such as Civis and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that aim to apprise voters of laws that govern them and the issues surrounding everyday life. While Civis was launched less than a year ago, ADR has been operational as an offline entity since 1999.

Even the Election Commission of India (ECI) has launched five apps—Suvidha, PWD, cVIGIL, Observer and Voter Helpline—in the run-up to the polls. Then there are gaming apps such as Election War and India Simulator 2 that have made games out of the clash of the different political parties. Most of these apps are available on Android and Apple.

Here, we take a look at some of the trending apps and platforms this election season categorised on the basis of the services they provide…

Educating Voters

Voter Helpline: This app, with over 10 lakh downloads since its launch in February, is a one-stop shop for voters to gather all sorts of electoral data. They can look up their personal information in the electoral roll, submit online forms, check the status of their complaints and applications, etc. Voters can also apply for changes in their name and address.

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Civis: Online platform, which was launched less than a  year ago, aims to educate voters on legislation and encourage them to share feedback on laws and policy decisions. With the response, it will appraise the government of citizens’ priorities.

Know your candidate

NextElection: Launched in August last year by Bengaluru-based entrepreneur Amit Bansal, NextElection (both an app and website) allows users to know their candidates’ electoral roots. Once you plug in your area name, information regarding the constituency candidate pops up with an option to rate and review them. With over 1,000 downloads so far, NextElection also provides information on leaders in power currently and their parties.

Neta: This Jalandhar-based rating-oriented app, with over five lakh downloads, allows users to rate politicians on the basis of the work they’ve done over the years, as well as different issue-centric parameters. It also shows the number of criminal cases that each party’s leaders have against them. It was launched in August last year during the state assembly polls in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

cVIGIL: The ECI launched cVIGIL app in July last year to curb violations that take place during elections, enabling citizens to report instances of breach. With over five lakh downloads so far, the app allows individuals to capture pictures and videos in real time and alert the authorities.

Missing Voters: As the name suggests, the Missing Voters app, which was launched earlier in the year, aims to identify missing voters in this year’s electoral voting lists and enable them to vote by getting them registered on the Election Commission’s website. Research conducted by the Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy and app developer RayLabs found that 15% of overall voters and 25% Muslim voters are absent this year from voter lists—effectively meaning that more than 12 crore voters won’t be able to vote in the Lok Sabha polls. The app, which has had over one lakh downloads on the Google Play Store so far, has details such
as street names of constituencies, number of households on each street and the number of voters in each household.

Observer: The ECI held a meeting last month with more than 1,800 IAS, IPS and IRS officials besides others from the central services who are to be deployed as observers in the coming polls. Via the app—which has had over 500 downloads so far—observers (who will be closely monitoring the elections for violations, etc) will get notifications, alerts, etc, while they’re on duty. Launched by the electoral body on March 14, the app also makes available all kinds of information about parliamentary and assembly constituencies.

NaMo: PM Narendra Modi’s NaMo app was initially launched as a medium for the BJP to connect with voters and receive feedback by way of surveys. After tasting great success over the past four years, the app has today become a one-stop shop for selling Modi merchandise. From NaMo T-shirts to stationary with slogans like ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’, the app—which has had over 10 million downloads so far—has sold merchandise worth `10 crore in just the past six months.

Shakti: An internal online platform of the Congress, it was launched to boost party membership. Shakti, which has 53,000 members today, was launched around two months ago. It was, in fact, recently in the news as the Congress sought members’ opinions through the platform on a possible coalition with the Aam Aadmi Party. The platform is not open to all and party workers can only join through an invitational SMS.

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