“The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) phenomenon couldn’t have happened in 1999 — at a time before the popularity of mobile phones,” said Robin Jeffrey, a well-known academic with deep interest in researching India.
Dr. Jeffrey addressed a press conference on Thursday, organised by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Nehru Science Centre-Mumbai at the Press Club, where he shared insights from his book Cell Phone Nation: How mobile phones changed India.
A keen observer of India’s social and political environments, Dr. Jeffery unearthed two takeaways from the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. First, he said constant and rapid communication powered AAP enabling it to build its organisation and “almost” win the Delhi elections, something that would not have been possible before the evolution of mobile communication in India.
The second, he observed, was the high voter turnout. “The ability of parties to power their booth organisers to reach out to the local electorate and nag them into coming out and voting is a great change,” said the Australian researcher.
Dr. Jeffery who is a Visiting Research Professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, said the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections were the first mass mobile phone-driven election.
“When I spoke to Bahujan Samaj Party’s cadres, they explained how there was a pyramid structure of communication and how there was constant communication and regular instructions from the top on what was to be done,” he said, explaining why this was one of the reasons behind BSP resounding success at the election.
“The mobile phone is just a medium that needs two committed human beings at both ends for such things to happen,” he added, while agreeing that as easy as it is do good with it, the mobile phones can be as easily used to cause harm too.
Shrikant Pathak, Curator, Nehru Science Centre-Mumbai and Rajan S. Mathews, Director General, COAI, were also present at the press conference.