For the first time, the workers and supporters of Bahujan Samaj Party have started using the social media extensively to reach out to the voters for 2017 assembly elections, tweeting party statements, posting live on Facebook the speeches made by party leaders and incessantly targeting the BJP government and its leaders.
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Even though party functionaries have maintained that they have received an unexpected response on social media, the party, which has been suspicious of the mainstream media and called it Manuwadi, has refrained from allowing any official presence of the party on the social media, which would have helped it connect to a large population directly.
A source in the party said the online campaigns like the creation of Twitter hashtag #MayawatiNextUPCM, which was among those trending during Mayawati’s rallies in August and September, would be identified as those run by party supporters and workers.
A party leader involved in the online campaign said they are present on Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging app, WhatsApp, but have not made it an official BSP campaign.
The party has used several campaigns to connect to voters through WhatsApp messages. Several Twitter and Facebook accounts have been circulating the statements and speeches of Mayawati. The profiles of many party leaders have been created on the Facebook by their supporters and are constantly updated. A message from the profile of Rajya Sabha member Ashok Siddharth, seeking the mobile numbers of people wanting to connect with the party, got more than 7,000 responses.
When contacted, Siddharth said he did not operate an account and it could be a page created and run by a party supporter. His page is liked by more than 11,000 people. A party leader said he had been surprised by the response that his speech received on Facebook, even though he was not aware of the fact that it had been posted there.
Many speeches of BSP chief Mayawati, including the one delivered at Lucknow on October 9 – the death anniversary of party founder Kanshi Ram – and those of party leaders like general secretaries Satish Chandra Misra and Naseemuddin Siddiqui have been streamed live on the Facebook. The party has already hired a Delhi-based firm to shoot Mayawati’s rallies.
Most of the candidates for 2017 elections are active on social media and a few have even created their own websites. In the aftermath of the incidents like the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in January and the flogging of Dalits in Una over skinning the dead cow in July, the accounts on Facebook and Twitter, created by the BSP supporters, have been attracting followers as well as support from various other Ambedkarite online groups. Mayawati, who prefers to convey her message through her written press statements or press conferences only, is not keen on the official presence of the party on the social media. A section of the party still believes that majority of BSP supporters live in villages and know little about the internet.