BJP prepares for Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh polls: Saffron party holds contests on social media to attract youth

The BJP, which used social media to gain some stunning advantages in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, is in action on social media once again in this high-decibel election year of 2018-2019.

In both the poll-bound states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the party has become active in strengthening its volunteer base using social media as a tool. And it is being done by organising competitions for the young, the biggest consumers of all that is on offer on social media.

BJP’s strategy in Madhya Pradesh          

The Madhya Pradesh BJP organised ‘Kaun Banega Miss Social’ — a 'beauty-with-brains' contest — at the end of September to add a dash of glamour to the war between political parties on social media.

Participants take a test during the Kaun Banega Miss Social contest. Image courtesy: Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

Participants take a test during the Kaun Banega Miss Social contest. Image courtesy: Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

With a participant turnout of 35,000 young women between the ages of 15 and 25 years, the state BJP must have been pretty pleased at the trump card it has thrown on the political table. What remains to be seen, however, is whether most of these young women participated to do some genuine 'social' service for the party.

Organised by the BJP Mahila Morcha – the party's women's wing in Madhya Pradesh — the contest saw participants from block and village levels to state capital Bhopal. The objective behind the competition, which involved writing a test, was to include young volunteers with a knowledge of social media in the BJP cadre. The test comprises two sets with 50 marks each on general awareness and on knowledge of social media.

“We’re not looking for any short-term benefit from this competition. It’s for a long-term association of participants with the party. Prior to conducting the test, we asked participants whether they would like to join as volunteers. On the basis of the final result, top 20 candidates from each district will be enrolled as social media volunteers,” RH Lata, state social media convener of BJP Mahila Morcha, told Firstpost.

The role of selected volunteers would be to disseminate information about government’s (both central and the state) welfare schemes through social media platforms, besides tracking developments, collecting feedback from masses about the efficacy of the schemes and on other issues.

The prerequisite condition to participate in the competition was to have the Narendra Modi App or NaMo app on one’s mobile handset.

“Having a personal mobile handset wasn’t mandatory. It could be that of a parent or any family member. But, NaMo app on the handset was compulsory. We included girls from 15 years onwards because children do come up with creative ideas and can think out-of-the-box. As quality volunteers, they will be an asset for the party in the long run. Special training will be provided to them,” added Lata, an academician for the past 22 years.

A sample question paper of 'Kaun Banega Miss Social' contest. Image courtesy: Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

A sample question paper of 'Kaun Banega Miss Social' contest. Image courtesy: Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

A special committee has been formed to prepare the final list of successful candidates. While the state-level winner will get a laptop, the district and block level winners will get tablets and mobile phones. The list of winners is expected to be announced within a week.

The party clearly seems to have an eye on 2019 Lok Sabha polls. With 20 women volunteers from each district, the BJP will have a battery of 1,040 volunteers from 52 districts on the party’s social media platform.

BJP’s strategy in Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh state BJP has organised a ‘Social Media Volunteer Meet, Chhattisgarh’ at Raipur on 12 October. The meeting will be headed by BJP president Amit Shah.

However, making it into the meet is not an easy task and the candidates won’t be selected through any test. The BJP president in the past, while fixing a target of 65 (to win 65 seats in Chhattisgarh Assembly polls), had told party workers and volunteers to be active on social media, enhance their outreach and increase the numbers of shares and likes they get on the posts they made.

“The invitation for the social media meet is not open to all. What I could gather that invitation has been sent after monitoring activities of party workers on Facebook and Twitter, frequency of posts by volunteers, shares and likes on posts etc. It’s about how a party worker is active on social media,” a party worker from Chhattisgarh, who has received an invitation, told Firstpost on condition of anonymity.

The Chhattisgarh government under its ‘Sanchar Kranti Yojna’ has begun distributing free smartphones with six months of free data from September. The target is to distribute the same to 4.4 million beneficiaries, including college students, rural population and people living below poverty line in urban areas.

Will these strategies be effective?

However, distributing freebies to voters, especially to those driven by non-party goals, can sometimes backfire. How dedicated the smartphone beneficiaries are going to be to the cause of Chhattisgarh BJP and how effective they would prove in the party’s social media drive remains a matter of conjecture.

But this instantly reminds one of the distribution of laptops to the state's youth by Akhilesh Yadav when he was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

The young people had turned out in droves to be given laptops by the chief minister himself in a widely publicised and well-attended ceremony. However, soon thereafter, news reports had surfaced of how quite a few young people had traded their free laptops for something they needed more, or simply for cash. Considering that Akhilesh Yadav had lost the next Assembly election, it was clear that his laptops had failed to convince the beneficiaries of the intentions of the benefactor.

Cutting back to the present, 'Miss Social' volunteers in Madhya Pradesh and their counterparts in Chhattisgarh will have a difficult role cut out for them as the state is going to the polls in November, followed by 2019 Lok Sabha election.

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Updated Date: Oct 10, 2018 21:34:30 IST

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