This is inspired by fiction. The Aam Aadmi Party, which won the second highsest seats in the recent state elections in Delhi, India, has sought a referendum via SMS and an online form on whether it should form the government in the state, with outside support from one of the parties that it had strongly and vociferously opposed and campaigned against. The party has published an appeal on its website, asking people to SMS YES or NO to 08806110335, else call that number to share their views. Apart from this, they are also collecting people’s opinions via an online form.
The party has, so far, taken an unconventional approach, and aggressively used social media, SMS, and even advertising on auto rickshaws and radio to reach out to citizens, and while the use of technology to market itself is not unexpected, its use of social media for decision making is unique. The party had also uploaded many of its constituency specific manifestos online, for people to view before voting.
There are two schools of thought on this move: firstly, the opinion that votes are representative of peoples opinion, and the party doesn’t need to seek a fresh referendum on decision making. As someone said on Twitter, people have voted the party in to take decisions, not outsource them to people again.
The other school of thought is that the party is truly inclusive (or populist), and trying to get a sense of peoples opinion before making a decision. It’s noteworthy that a part of the Aam Aadmi Party manifesto involves the concept of Swaraj, or self governance: “The law of Swaraj will be enacted in Delhi. The right to take decisions about his Mohalla/colony/street will be given directly to the people. The councillor and MLA funds in Delhi would be discontinued. The money would be given directly to the Mohalla Sabhas so that the public decides on how to spend the money in its locality.”
This could be seen as another form of Swaraj, though we wonder whether people might lose interest if asked to vote on each and every decision that the government makes. People might not agree with every single promise in a political party’s manifesto, but still vote for them because they agree with most, or there are other factors. A referendum on decisions allows people to vote on each decision, and with over 800 million active mobile connections in the country, this could get interesting.
So, how does this move imitate fiction? Well, Idea Cellular had run a similar TV campaign as far back as December 2008:
In all of this, telecom operators should be happy: this contributes to their dwindling text messaging revenues, which Idea Cellular MD Himanshu Kampania had warned about a couple of months ago. What an Idea, from their perspective! However, we’re also reminded of ZipDial, which has created a business purely build on providing consumer feedback using missed calls, the cheapest way possible.
– #DelhiVotes: Aam Aadmi Party Opposes FDI In Retail; Wants CCTV’s, WiFi At ISBT, Online Bus Ticketing
– On The Role Of Social Media In The Delhi Elections
– Entrepreneurship lessons from the Aam Aadmi Party – Startup Central