Uttarakhand Election 2017: Congress, BJP social media teams go on overdrive as poll day draws closer
To mobilise voters in their favour, Congress and BJP are in race with each other to use new information tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter ahead of the 2017 Uttarakhand Assembly election
To mobilise voters in their favour, Congress and BJP are in race with each other to use new information tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter ahead of the 2017 Uttarakhand Assembly election. The parties have formed special teams to reach out to voters through the new information technology. Both parties have war rooms designed at their Dehradun offices.
Congress' Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat recently made an appeal to voters to share their problems on a WhatsApp group called 'Uttarakhand Rahe Khushhaal, Rawat Sarkar Poore Panch Saal', while BJP has launched a mobile app 'BJP Uttarakhand', which uploads videos of party work, and also gives members information about party activities.
Images and photo galleries are regularly uploaded on the official social networking pages of both parties. A website 'Harda ko Bolo' (Tell Harish Rawat) is a platform for locals to share problems of their areas with the chief minister. Rawat has informed about this website by releasing a video on his Facebook page on 23 January.
Even the supporters of the two parties have used social media to taunt each other. Projecting Rawat as Bahubali, a video was circulated recently, where Rawat's face replaced Bahubali's, and he is carrying a stone shaped like the state of Uttarakhand on one shoulder.
BJP was quick to raise objections to the video, and the matter made its way to the Election Commission. At the same time, another video Rowdy Rathore, which also showed Rawat as a hero, made its presence felt on social media. The Congress party's social media team, which handles the party's information technology campaign, continues to keep a close eye on statements made by rival parties against Rawat or the party.
With 52.4 thousand followers on Twitter, chief minister Rawat is far ahead of his counterparts from the other four poll-bound states. He tweets regularly, and has cultivated a strong social media presence. His tweet count is over 6,000 and these have all been messages regarding critical issues the state faces.
The BJP's Dehradun office is located on Balbir Road. The party has a special room here, where its social media and IT teams burn the midnight oil to generate new ideas to counter the Congress. "Over 140 volunteers are associated with our war room. They keep a watch on election campaigning in all 70 seats of the state," said Ravindra Petwal, in-charge of the party's social media and IT cell.
BJP's central office has also sent out a team to coordinate with local volunteers for putting up a good show on social media. "You know voters reside in interior parts of the hills in this state. The good thing is that such voters, particularly the youth, have special a charm to use WhatsApp and Facebook to remain in touch with the world. So, this is good for us to contact them through social media and made them aware about our party's vision for the state," said Jeevan Bisht, who heads Research and
Monitoring part of BJP's IT cell at party headquarters, said.
The team collects feedback about the party's prospect in every constituency. Every BJP candidate has one employee in-charge of social media affairs in his/her assembly constituency. Their job is to take care of candidates' image building and inform voters about the works undertaken by him/her. "They remain in touch with social media teams of the BJP in Dehradun also," Bisth replied to a question.
According to him, his team prepares graphics, videos, cartoons and caricatures on the basis of feedback collected regularly. These are regularly circulated on social media like Facebook and WhatsApp. He made it clear that they operate on Twitter, Instagram and FB through the same username 'BJP4UK'.
To a question regarding number of Likes and Comments that their graphics get, he said it is around 3,000-4,000 likes in few hours. "But pictures of rallies are the most popular," he further said.
The date for scrutiny of the nomination papers is 29 January. The results of the Uttarakhand polls will be announced by EC on 10 March.
Rawat, who holds the forest, environment, labour and employment portfolios in the Uttarakhand cabinet, had left Congress to join BJP in 2016
While the BJP already has a good presence on social media platforms, the Samajwadi Party and others are putting in efforts to strengthen their digital army and chalking out strategies to boost their support base