There is no doubt about the fact that social media is a double edged political tool that India's parties will need some time getting used to. Given that nothing about the medium encourages diplomacy and the 140 characters of a tweet have felled political careers of seasoned diplomats like Shashi Tharoor, the importance of tweet-training can't be overemphasized. Imagine having a Beni Prasad Verma on Twitter! Congress and especially Rahul Gandhi seem to have somewhat figured out the nature of the necessary evil that Twitter or Facebook are. The result of which was a stern social media advisory issued to Congress workers in the two-day conclave in Delhi. According to Hindustan Times, his message was clear: "Don’t go beyond the party line and keep the debate dignified and decent." While it is tempting to read the same as a stoic refusal to react to all the "Pappu" taunts on Twitter, the Congress scion's diktat was reportedly meant to cleanse the party image, at least on social media.
Hindustan Times reports that a special desk was set up in Jawahar Bhavan in New Delhi to initiate several Congress workers to Twitter. Close to 300 people attended the conclave and learnt the ropes of social media. HT reports:
Apart from his strong emphasis on speaking in one voice and indulging in positive politics, the focus of Gandhi’s inaugural speech in Hindi followed by a brief question-answer session was social media. He directed the party faces to “effectively counter lies with truth and facts” which many spokespersons interpreted as an apparent reference to Gujarat chief minister and BJP campaign committee head Narendra Modi’s development claims.
So that the new Congress social media users don't goof up on their facts, P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh held two sessions updating its own party workers about policies like the food security bill, FDI, NREGA, loan waiver schemes. It is, therefore, clear that the party issues strict guidelines about the content and tone of the social media activities of its party workers.
With squabbles between party leaders on social media becoming uglier by the day and political spats taking place on Twitter than in the Parliament or press conference, Congress' social media training is well-timed. Both the government and the Opposition have taken to Twitter, Facebook and blogs to criticise each other's policies, defend themselves and indulge in vocal-chord saving arguments.
Khidkee therefore is probably the formal endorsement that the Congress workers needed to defend their lot on the virtual space. It also is a organised process to swell its ranks of social media users to counter the Opposition.
The Times of India reports:
The party unveiled its new multi-media platform 'Khidki' to ensure uniform dissemination of news and opinions related to Congress for its leaders, who will be provided with a login ID and password to access the website.
Khidkee.com allows users to log in with Youth Congress ids and boasts of an Android and iPhone app. You can also request an invite. Similar to the early days of LinkedIn or Facebook, the by invitation only model usually shows a high-rate of sign on than an open to all approach.
Interestingly, it was reported that Modi has hired Bangalore-based IT experts Rajesh Jain and BG Mahesh to boost his social media campaign. Whether or not Khidkee counters Modi's social media charm will only be known in the next couple of months, but for now, that social media will be one brutal battleground is becoming a certainty.