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In low-connectivity Jharkhand, mixed picture in BJP’s membership drive data

Those involved in social media campaigns in Jharkhand agreed that network connectivity being low, all parties have to recalculate their communication strategy.

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi | Published: December 8, 2019 1:33:31 am
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Having focussed on three regions of Jharkhand, which account for half of the state’s 81 Assembly seats and where the party fared relatively poorly in 2014 Vidhan Sabha elections, the BJP’s membership efforts have shown contrasting performance, according to data from membership drive in the run-up to the ongoing elections.

Those involved in social media campaigns in Jharkhand agreed that network connectivity being low, all parties have to recalculate their communication strategy.

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While in Maharashtra, every eight in 10 phone calls from the BJP connected, and six of them were answered, not even four in 10 phone calls connect in Jharkhand, they said.

Political parties divide Jharkhand into five divisions, of which the BJP-led NDA were unable to win half the seats in three in 2014: Santhal (won seven out of 18 seats), Palamu (four out of nine), and Kolhan (six out of 14), making NDA’s haul in these three regions 17 out of 41 seats.

In contrast, the NDA won 21 of 40 seats in the state’s other two regions: North Chhotanagpur and South Chhotanagpur.

Post-2014, the BJP made concerted efforts to make inroads into these three divisions with its missed call membership drives, amassing about 18,000 primary members on average per Assembly segment. These drives of 2014 and 2019 are part of the party’s crucial strategy to amass data and send campaign-related information through phone calls, IVRS, and SMSes to their “primary members”.

While the BJP garnered over 28,000 primary membership per seat in Santhal region, it did not seem to get similar responses in Kolhan, where it got under 10,000 members per segment, and Palamu, with about 8,000 members per constituency.

The two Lok Sabha seats the BJP lost in 2019 General Election was in these regions: Rajmahal in Santhal, where JMM won, and Singhbhum in Kolhan, which went to the Congress.

District-wise data from Niti Aayog show that mobile penetration is unlikely to be a factor in the membership variance across the regions, since all three divisions have a mobile-owning population of 20-45 per cent.

Besides roughly 45,000 calls each day, the BJP’s five call centres in state capital Ranchi also send four to five targeted IVRS messages to 5-10 lakh people and six to 10 different kinds of SMSes targeting 15-20 lakh people per day. The party is also learnt to have created, and operates, 35,000 WhatsApp groups.

JMM spokesperson Tanij Khatri said, “While other mediums such as social media advertising and hoardings are expensive, we can reach people directly through organic social media.”

A volunteer from the party said they work with very short videos and data-lite messages. The Congress held a social media workshop with party workers last month and highlighted that volunteers should not send videos larger than 30 seconds to areas with low connectivity, sources said.

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