How Do You Say "change We Can Believe In" In Hindi?

by Isaac Chotiner | July 10, 2008

Alas, The Washington Post does not tell us, but in a fun piece Rama Lakshmi explains that Hindu Nationalist leader L.K. Advani is bringing internet organizing and a message of change to the Indian parliamentary campaign likely to conclude next year:

The party predicts that, like in the Obama campaign, technology will play a central role in attracting the youth. It plans to use cellphones and the Internet as important media of political communication. India, with one of the world's fastest-growing cellphone markets, now has 185 million subscribers; 5.5 million are added a month.

In May, Washington-based Kevin Bertram spoke at a packed conference in New Delhi about his aggressive use of text messaging in Obama's campaign.

Work on creating a Web site similar to Obama's for Advani is also underway.

"Obama's site successfully created communities of supporters and voters. It was used to call a meeting of friends and plan events," said Prodyut Bora, 33, head of the campaign's technology initiative. "We would like the Advani portal to enable millions of voters to connect with him and with each other. This would encourage people to become Advani's local campaigners."

In other ways, however, Advani and Obama are quite different. Obama has not (to my knowledge) instigated a group of Hindu fanatics to burn a beloved mosque just so a Hindu temple could be built on the site.

Advani, though, has a fascinating life story, having been born and raised in Karachi before partition. Despite being hated by Pakistani Muslims for his bellicose rhetoric, Advani recently made kind statements about Muhammad Jinnah, Pakistan's founder, suggesting (correctly) that Jinnah had secularist intentions for Pakistan. This enraged members of Advani's own Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but did hint that he had some interest in addressing subcontinental colonialism's greatest sin--partition. Anyway, have not a few supporters of one of our presidential candidates wondered whether his election would help America "move past" its founding sin?

                                       Okay, it's a stretch. And Advani's more recent moves to the center are probably just political (doh!--another similarity)--and should not let anyone forget his often disgraceful record. Still, it won't be shocking to find Obama and Advani sitting across from each other next year discussing nuclear proliferation and much else.

--Isaac Chotiner 

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