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Tech's not the way to voters' heart

National Conference (NC) president Omar Abdullah, whose speech on Dr Manmohan Singh’s vote of confidence made him an instant youtube hit, was, within days, forced to close his blog as the firewalls failed to stop the “personal abuse”.

Oct 25, 2008, 05.03 AM IST
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SRINAGAR: National Conference (NC) president Omar Abdullah, whose speech on Dr Manmohan Singh���s vote of confidence made him an instant youtube hit, was, within days, forced to close his blog as the firewalls failed to stop the ���personal abuse���.

Now, when dad Abdullah senior and his former bureaucrat friends came toying with the idea of engaging a hi-fi PR firm for the November assembly elections, the elders in the party forced him to turned it down. Informed sources told ET that Dr Farooq Abdullah���s friends ��� two retired and a serving IAS officer ��� prevailed upon him to hire a PR company for managing the polls.

Apart from SMS campaign and managing media for the party, the company has told the party that it would keep at least one PR professional with every candidate so that he is advised on almost everything from how he should speak to what he wears. The company gave them a detailed presentation early this week before Abdullah senior. Besides, they had also detailed on how they would use the FM radio, internet and mobile to influence the voter.

The idea was supported by a section of the leaders close to president Omar Abdullah and one of his key aides was camping in Delhi to finalise the details. It, however, fell flat as it was discussed with the party elders.

They said it will prove counter-productive and given the background that image-makeover did not help either NDA to return to power or help former Punjab chief minister Amrinder Singh to retain the hot seat. Interestingly, the same company that had been short-listed for the ���wasteful exercise��� managed one of the two campaigns.

Above all, the idea was too exorbitant and expensive. Sources said the idea has been shelved but a PR firm would still help the party in managing the newspaper advertisements. The tech-savvy, NC president has had a very bad experience writing a blog on party site.

In response to 42 posts, Omar got over 900 comments. It created a few controversies as well as his ���half truths��� were challenged by newspapers. But not every comment was all right. ���There was a time not so long ago when I used to enjoy rushing to this blog and reading comments.

I used to look forward to pitting my wits against people who I didn���t necessarily agree with but who could argue a point on its merit. Sure, they didn���t like me and would not trust me further than they could throw me but they had the maturity and self confidence to listen���, Omar said in his last post alvida (good bye).

���Last night as I finished my last post I realised that I was filled with dread at the heap of personal abuse I was expecting when I logged on this morning and I was not wrong���.

That experience was adequate enough to convince Omar that technology cannot alter a Kashmiri voter���s mind especially when he witnesses death and destruction almost on daily basis. Interestingly, e-mailing is restricted to a small class in Kashmir given low computer penetration and internet availability. Even the SMSing is banned for around four months now.
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