'Cell phone is the power behind Kejriwal's success'

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s rise to become Delhi’s Chief Minister and a national-level leader exemplifies the power of cell phone in politics, says Canada-born historian and author Robin Jeffrey.

Jeffrey, who co-authored the book ‘Cell Phone Nation’, told reporters here that Kejriwal’s innovative use of the cellphone has gone beyond the irritating, unsolicited SMSes sent by election candidates for seeking votes.

“The AAP uses it to establish a personal connect with supporters. It identifies supporter, asks them to do certain tasks and links groups of people who did not know each other earlier,” said Jeffrey while delivering a lecture on ‘how mobile phones changed India’.

He dubbed the 2007 victory of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh as the first elections where mobile phones shaped the destiny in the democratic process.Kejriwal’s party has taken a cue from Mayawati’s initiative – identify booth captains and keep them motivated through mobile phones for campaign in the field.

Jeffrey, who is in his early 70s, has worked as a school teacher in Chandigarh. He is an Emeritus Professor at the Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne.

Mobile phones have been playing an important role in India’s ongoing Lok Sabha elections as candidates can have direct access to voters through social media, he said.

“A mobile phone is the biggest thing that has hit the mankind since the arrival of shoes,” he said at a lecture.

The author is planning to write another book with co-author and Australian scholar Assa Doron on electronic garbage and its handling in Delhi, highlighting the mounds of trashed cell phone they saw in junkyards in north-east Delhi’s Seemapuri.    

Jeffrey also talked about the darker side of the devices for communication on the go.

“It is not difficult to track mobile phone owners and learn about their movements and their activities, as the Radia tapes saga illustrated,” he said. “Criminals use them to execute old-style crimes more efficiently and to devise new-style crimes,” he said.

“Pornography has never been more widely available. Citizens’ privacy can be easily invaded by criminals, governments and renegade agents of governments,” he said.

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