With the first phase of the West Bengal Assembly polls over, political parties in the state have extended their fight into the digital spectrum, swearing by the revolutionary impact of the social media.
In a bid to reach out to Gen-X, Trinamool Congress, CPI-M, Congress and BJP have come up with innovative ideas to make their presence felt in the digital space through their top leaders.
Topping the chart is Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is not only a regular user of Facebook and Twitter but also the most popular face there.
Banerjee's Facebook page is being liked by near about 16 lakh people and her Twitter handle @Mamataofficial has more than 2.6 lakh followers.
"Trinamool Congress has been very active on social media with a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It has given us a huge window to share with all of you our thoughts, achievements and concerns. I hope you too must have had a great experience staying in touch with us through the digital world," Banerjee had recently said in a Facebook post.
Banerjee also uses Facebook and Twitter to promote a short film series that goes with the hashtag #RealBengal that basically highlights her achievements in the last five years with ‘real stroies’ of people.
Here is her most recent #RealBengal post
#RealBengal Real Stories This is the story of Sheikh Ratan from Bardhaman. For decades, his family did not have a pucca house to live in. But now, due to massive thrust on housing for all in the last 5 years, he has a good place to stay and a reason to smile. #প্রকৃতবাংলা প্রকৃত কাহিনীএটি বর্ধমানের শেখ রতনের কাহিনী। বহু দশক থাকার জন্য পাকা বাড়ি ছিল না তাদের। কিন্তু আজ আর সেই চিত্র নেই। গত ৫ বছরে সবার জন্য বাড়ি কর্মসূচীর অসাধারন অগ্রগতির ফলে, এখন তিনি পেয়েছেন থাকার জন্য ভাল বাড়ি, আর এক রাশ খুশি।
Posted by Mamata Banerjee on Thursday, 7 April 2016
Mamata Banerjee also tweets these videos out on Twitter along with sharing pictures of the various rallies she participates in.
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) March 8, 2016
Today I have launched Utkarsh Bangla, a flagship scheme for placement linked skill development pic.twitter.com/361ggNVVH4
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) February 16, 2016
The TMC also has a presence on SoundCloud, but they have put out only one track so far - Trinamool: The Song
While Banerjee refrains from slamming other parties on Twitter as much as she can, TMC's national spokesperson Derek O'Brien, who is very active on social media, believes in re-tweeting posts that don't show the best side of other politicians. This retweet, for instance, takes a dig at Rahul Gandhi.
Derek O'Brien also has a wicked sense of humour. Look at this tweet for instance:
It looks like he wants to make a case against the CMP-Congress alliance in West Bengal. The TMC took its youth-connect strategy one step ahead and created a mobile app, which is now in its third version and can be downloaded on Android as well as IOS, reported The Indian Express.
Before the launch of the app, Mamata Banerjee posted this on her wall: "To give you a whole new world of experience on digital interface, a new customised and updated mobile app has just been launched, which can help you to get lots of information at your fingertips on mobiles, tablets etc. Please enjoy the experience."
The TMC also has a website that has a weekly poll, their manifesto, a voter's guide, student's corner and a little widget that counts the number of days in government. The website was launched in 2009 and the party has expanded its presence in the digital space since then. The website is called aitcofficial.org.
The CPM, which was against the introduction of computers in India on the grounds that it would mean loss of jobs, are also using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to reach out to younger voters.
Surya Kanta Mishra, state secretary of CPM, regularly uses Twitter to express his views and opinions. His handle, @SurjyaKMishra, have over 3,000 followers. Mishra does not shy away from expressing his intolerance towards TMC's rule in the state. Four out of the nine tweets put out by Mishra in April are regarding the ouster of TMC in West Bengal. His campaigning strategy is simple - slam the opponent (and the election commission)
TMC & Syndicate are synonymous!One can't survive without the other!Confessions r from CM's MLA's!Oust TMC!! Ensure a Syndicate free Bengal!! — Surjya Kanta Mishra (@SurjyaKMishra) April 5, 2016
Unnerved by People's resolve to oust them, TMC plans 2 unleash terror!!People will continue d resistance till TMC is decisively defeated!! — Surjya Kanta Mishra (@SurjyaKMishra) April 5, 2016
The LokSabha sect primarily refused 2 accept Samuels Narada sting!! A clear exposure again of d TMC-BJP nexus!! Committed 2wrds each other!! — Surjya Kanta Mishra (@SurjyaKMishra) April 4, 2016
Sujan Chakraborty, a prominent face and leader of the CPM, mostly tweets in Bengali. Charkraborty shares his party's manifesto on Twitter. One of his latest tweets promises better electricity across the state -
The CPM is also probably one of the only parties to use WhatsApp wisely. Sujan Chakraborty tweeted about reaching out to him on WhatsApp urging people to make suggestions and ask whatever questions they may have
“Facebook and Twitter have a democratic space where you can place your views within a few seconds and can reach lakhs of people within a minute. At times media houses are driven by their own policies, but in social media you are your boss, you can place your views, participate in a debate,” CPI-M state secretariat member Sridip Bhattacharya, who is in-charge of the social media segment of the CPI-M, said.
Even CPM's official twitter handle also does not miss an opportunity to rally for the ouster of TMC:
The CPM's Facebook page on a regular basis are uploading pics and posters of candidates who are contesting the elections.
BJP's West Bengal Twitter page, which goes by the handle @bjpbengal, does little to campaign for West Bengal. Their agenda is promoting Modi and it wouldn't be wrong to say that most of their twitter home page is filled with Modi's achievements, his visits, quotes and achievements of their party members. Their social media strategy for West Bengal stands no chance in front of the CPM and TMC.
Dilip Ghosh, BJP's key candidate, also has a social media presence and his Twitter handle does some rallying for himself and his party.
"Nearly 70 lakh people have smartphones. More than one crore people in Bengal use one or the other form of social media, be it Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter. So we can easily send out our message to the masses through them," BJP media in charge Krishanu Mitra told PTI. BJP has also brought in Niraj Gaur in Bengal who had played a vital role in helping the BJP win in Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir.
The BJP state unit has formed a separate Media and IT cell, complete with a call centre. The network will also allow leaders to talk directly to booth workers as well as whole-timers. "The social media campaign has helped us in the last few months. Through small videos and messages we have been able to reach out to lakhs of people and inform them about incidents which local media has completely blacked out," Mitra said.
With inputs from PTI