BJP trains netas to be netizens

Party’s latest overhaul has a social media convenor for ST,SC,OBC and Kisan Morchas

Written by Lakshmi Ajay | Ahmedabad | Published: July 17, 2013 4:14 am

They are young,grew up in rural backgrounds and can barely be called Internet-savvy. But in the latest overhaul,the state BJP gave these new appointees the responsibility of inspiring people in the party to be seen and heard on social media,their language and computer literacy barriers being overcome by the new-age phones.

Recently,the party’s state unit opened up posts of “social media convenors” for all its cells,like ST,SC and OBC cells,held by these young men from rural backgrounds who are still waiting for their brief from the bosses.

The move is obviously motivated by Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s own interest and emphasis on social media shaping opinions.

Mayank Nayak (41),the state convenor of the social media cell of OBC Morcha,says he is comfortable with technology and owns two high-end smartphones.

A mechanical engineer who dabbles in Mehsana’s contruction business,Nayak is 7-tweet old on Twitter so far. Unfamiliar with the microblogging site,he says,“At a social media workshop in Banaskantha district last year,a survey revealed the number of social media users in the district.

“At the booth level,of the 1000 voters,200 use mobile phones and of them,at least 30 are active on social media networks. So initially,my idea is popularise the social media among BJP workers on the ground and then through them the masses.”

The new breed of social media envoys of Gujarat BJP are not rank newcomers. In fact,may among them have more than a decade of experience in various party posts and started with Yuva Morcha or at taluka level.

Take 36-year-old Ritesh Vasava,who started as a Yuva Morcha worker 14 years ago and fought 2009 Lok Sabha polls as one of the youngest candidates from Surat. Vasava is currently the social media cell convenor of ST (Scheduled Tribe) Morcha cell.

“My duties stretch in the tribal belt,from Sabarkantha till Valsad and Dangs. I have to get BJP workers in these areas to first open their accounts in Facebook and Twitter. These days,social media is more effective in reaching out to people rather than putting up posters,” says Vasava who is active on Facebook but is yet to have a Twitter account. Apart from being a UPSC aspirant,he is also well-heeled into politics,being the nephew of Forest & Environment Minister Ganpat Vasava.

Despite having a Twitter account,38-year-old Bhagaji Thakor,the state convenor of the Kisan Morcha’s social media cell,has not tweeted even once and only follows Bollywood actor Aamir Khan going by his twitter handle. A manufacturer of road construction equipment,Thakore turned a netizen two years back when he started his company’s website. “I am active on Facebook and Twitter and tweet regularly on the work done by the party. Whatever programmes we undertake under Kisan Morcha,I plan to disseminate information about them through these forums.”

With an NGO background,Arvind M Katapara,the new state convener of social media cell in the SC Morcha has till now averaged only 12 tweets and hosts a blog adress that has no posts yet. But one look at his Facebook page since 2010 and the message is clear,it is Modi all the way. Be it the photos of Sabarmati Riverfront,Modi and other leaders flagging off the Ahmedabad BRTS,Katapara doggedly follows Narendra Modi’s activities. The news is shared diligently in English but personal messages to party workers are rendered in Gujarati.

“While BJP workers know its ideology,the general public still needs to know what Gujarat has achieved under Modi,” says Katapara.

A meeting of these social media convenors is scheduled on July 22 ,when more such convenors will be appointed and their duties outlined.

Harshad Patel,state convenor of media cell,says,“Earlier,there was only print and television. Now,there is social media that has a wider reach. Almost 95 per cent of the people are connected to social media through their phones today. It is free of cost,is instant and therefore a great platform.

“Social Media is like an open board and if a BJP office-bearer writes or comments on it,it will be considered the voice of the party and has more credibility. Most of the people who have been appointed are old hands and have great

working experience and are all conversant with social media.”

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