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How to survive the election blitzkrieg

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections aren’t just about progress or corruption, but also an election that has started an information onslaught on Indian voters. Hassan M Kamal finds a few tools to help sift through this online blitz, and make an informed decision

Today, we seem to be surrounded from all sides by factors that try to influence our decisions. Sometimes, it’s a tweet, at other times, a post or a picture on Facebook, a video on YouTube or a report, each of which spreads like a wild fire through the World Wide Web via paid social media avenues.


A pedestrian walks past a graffiti in Kolkata featuring Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for the ongoing general elections. Pic/AFP

So, how does a voter sift through this information blitzkrieg, and make the right decision? It is this idea that seems to have inspired the birth of independent platforms, that aim to provide a jargon-free flow of information — be it tracking the performance of a sitting MP, being aware of a candidate’s history, or simply making the correct facts available to the public. Read on about a few such online platforms that have been helping Indians make an informed decision on the Web.


Flags and election campaign materials on sale at a wholesale shop. Pic/AFP

Thefivefortyfive.com
A simple-yet-informative website, thefivefortyfive. com tells interesting 300 to 400-word stories with charts, graphics and visuals. Be it major scams that rocked India, or a recap of a political candidate’s career, it offers political stories without the biases or alliances marring current Indian media. “It’s writing for your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues. No high-brow, jargon-led, politically-driven journalism…the 545 will break through the clutter, delivering pieces that’ll interest even the most non-political of readers,” the makers write, sharing the website’s goal.
Log on to: www.thefivefortyfive.com

Know Your Candidates
A tool created by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), PRS Legislative Research and Liberty Institute India, the Know Your Candidates portal is your exclusive window into the sitting Lok Sabha MPs and and contesting candidates, offering information such as disclosed educational background, financial details and social media presence (wherever available). You can also check their attendance in the Lok Sabha, the debates they have participated in, and their views on the same. Just type your pin code, and it will direct you to the MP or candidate in your area.
Log on to: Google.co.in/elections

Mumbaivotes.com / Praja.org
These are your go-to source for any information related to the six constituencies in Mumbai that will go on poll on April 24. Using tools similar to the Know Your Candidates portal, Mumbaivotes.com and Praja.org takes things a few notches higher, informing people of the responsibilities of MPs/MLAs, and what one can expect them to do. The websites also offer news, views and analysis of the performance of the sitting MPs/MLAs and their parties in a graphical format, akin to a report card. Do check both before heading to the polling booth on April 24.
Log on to: Mumbaivotes.com and Praja.org

The Ungli campaign
Started by social networking site, Vebbler.com, the Ungli campaign has been helping people solve all their election related problems, be it locating their poll booth, information about the incumbent MP in their constituency or registering for a voter ID card. “Many people don’t vote because they do not have simple information like polling booth address, date of voting etc. What we have done is make all this information available to them on their mobile phones,” says  Sahil Bhagat, founder of Vebbler. “We are also helping Vebbler users submit their forms for voter ID cards,” he adds.
Log on to: ungli.net

The ABC of Elections
Smartur, an e-learning website for school kids, has created a platform to inform current school students of the top three PM candidates, and the voting process. “A majority of these kids will vote in the next elections, hence they need to know what’s happening, who are the people contesting the elections, and how it will affect them,” says Neeraj Jewalkar, founder of Smartur.com. Some of the key tools include, infographics on the three PM candidates — Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi — as well as fun election contest questions (like minimum age and qualification to contest in elections, which are the regional parties), a children’s manifesto, where school kids can put up their demand to the various parties, and a fun PM test where they judge the three PM candidates on areas like Bhangra skills, Hip-Hop skills and so on. “We want these soon-to-be voters to know the election process and get used to studying the politicians, and judging them on a regular basis after they are elected to power. We want them to understand that they are not demigods who have fallen from the sky; they are like us, and that our involvement shouldn’t be limited only to the voting day,” he adds.
Log on to: www.smartur.com/elections

12 crore - Number of first-time voters, who will exercise their franchise for the first time in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

How to track the data by yourself

If you still think that one of these platforms might be biased towards one of the parties, try these active election data providers to dig all the info on 2014 Lok Sabha elections, by yourself:



>> Data Meet (Datameet.org)
Join them to know how to make sense of all the data available online.

>> PRS Legislative Research (www.prsindia.org)
Provides information on the performance of Members of Parliament.

>> Association for Democratic Reforms
(Adrindia.org) and National Election Watch (Myneta.info)
For detailed analysis of the background of candidates contesting elections.

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