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From hospital room, MNM’s Santhosh Babu runs ‘hyper-digital’ poll campaign

Volunteers working for Babu's victory distribute pamphlets with a QR code so when people scan that it will take them to the party’s Velachery website. Babu also interacts with the people over Zoom calls regularly.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: March 24, 2021 3:52:44 pm
Santhosh Babu, Makkal Needhi Maiam, VelacheryMakkal Needhi Maiam’s candidate V Santhosh Babu will be contesting from Chennai's Velachery constituency.

From Zoom calls and distributing pamphlets with QR codes to setting up exclusive IVRS numbers, former IAS officer and Makkal Needhi Maiam’s candidate V Santhosh Babu is running a “hyper-digital campaign” to reach out to voters in the Velachery constituency after testing positive for Covid-19.

A week after the party announced him as the candidate for Velachery, Babu tested positive. “I wish to inform my Velachery voters that I contracted COVID. How unlucky I am! I really want to meet with all of you and seek your blessings and votes. We will be going on a hyper-digital campaign and my teams will come and meet with you. Do vote for MNM and me!” he had tweeted.

Santhosh Babu, Makkal Needhi Maiam, Velachery Close to 200 volunteers are working for Babu’s victory in Velachery. Santhosh Babu had tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

However, the setback didn’t stop him from his voter outreach. Speaking to Indianexpress.com from the hospital, Babu explained how he is connecting with voters with his party support in this difficult period.

“The campaign is going well. We have enough volunteers on the field who are taking care of things. From 6 am to 10 am and then from 4 pm to 10 pm the campaign is taking place. We distribute pamphlets with a QR code so when people scan that it will take them to the party’s Velachery website (Velachery.maiam.com). I also interact with the people through Zoom call regularly,” says Babu.

On the website, voters can learn more about the candidate and the party’s ward-wise manifesto. However, Babu, who is the general secretary (Head Quarters) of the party, says the digital campaign is a laborious process due to connectivity issues.

“In a normal campaign, you get to interact with people much more than here. When you speak, they won’t be able to hear and when they speak you won’t be able to hear. So there are limitations like that because it’s not a controlled atmosphere. There are constraints but we are trying to get over that. We have an IVRS number, plenty of volunteers are joining on that. We have a ward-wise manifesto which none of the parties have done here. We familiarise ourselves with each household in that ward, our team of members will reach them and show the power-point presentation. We ask them their issue and explain to them how we can resolve it,” he says.

Babu says the response from the public has been fantastic. He says the number of voters they could cover physically would have been much more, but due to the pandemic, his team is trying to utilise the available resources to the fullest.

Santhosh Babu, Makkal Needhi Maiam, Velachery Babu interacts with people over a Zoom call. Babu, who is the general secretary (Head Quarters) of the party, says the digital campaign is a laborious process due to connectivity issues.

Close to 200 volunteers are working for Babu’s victory in Velachery. They volunteers reach different areas and gather the people to explain what their candidate and party can offer. “I attend calls simultaneously and listen to their grievance. I am making sure I don’t miss any of the calls to give them an assurance that I will be available anytime to resolve their issues. We have a plan of action to cover other covering locations where people gather in large numbers. We also plan to introduce an augmented reality application. I am hoping to come out in the last three or four days and do physical campaigning as well, let’s see how it goes,” he says.

Babu is up against Congress and AIADMK candidates in Velachery. When asked how confident he and his party are about winning the seat, Babu says he is more focused on how much effort he is putting in rather than worrying about the end result.

“There’s an absolute mismatch between me and other candidates. We are doing a digital campaign and they are doing a physical campaign. So naturally, they have an additional advantage. It’s not a level playing field right now. I am in the hospital and others are on the field. All I think is how much effort I can put sitting here with my team on the field. I don’t think too much about the results,” says Babu.

He adds that the party high command, including president Kamal Haasan, have been in constant touch with him. “They are very supportive and motivating. They ask me whether I need more force to carry out the campaign works. They are waiting for me to recover and step onto the field as early as possible,” he says.

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