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In Assam, Cong bets big on social media, finds voice in Kokai

Party leaders said the campaign was carried out by an external firm, in coordination with the senior leaders.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: March 4, 2021 3:55:51 am
assam, assam congress, Axomiya Kokaideo, CAA, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi, Assam news, Assam assembly elections 2021, north east news, indian expressPriyanka Gandhi Vadra in Assam (Twitter/INC)

He is the quintessential Axomiya Kokaideo (elder brother) – wise, respected and sensible. And this election season, he is not one to mince words, whether it’s about soaring petrol prices or the sensitive Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Meet Kokai, the voice of Congress’s social media campaign in the run-up to the Assam assembly elections, scheduled to start on March 27.

Over the past month, the Congress’s social media handles – Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – feature the musings of this old man, an animated character reminiscent of R K Laxman’s The Common Man. The strips — in Assamese — are accompanied by the hashtag, ‘KokaaiKiKoi’, which translates to “What would Kokai [short for Kokaideo] say?”

“The people of Assam are the central characters of this election. And that is what our cartoon character also signifies — he is an ordinary person, representing the way the common man thinks about issues,” said Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi. “This election is fundamentally about protecting the Assamese way of life, as we have known it, as we have grown up seeing – and he reflects that.”

The call to protect Assam is the mainstay of the Congress’s campaign this election — which is largely pegged to be a triangular contest between the BJP, the Congress-led grand ‘Mahajot’ alliance and the new regional parties. The campaign, titled ‘Assam Basaon Ahok’, which translates to “Come, let us save Assam”, is being ramped up across the party’s social media handles.

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Aggressive online campaign

WITH THE elections around the corner, the Congress has visibly ramped up its presence online through video competitions, featured hashtags and live interviews with its leaders. In February, the party launched a nationwide drive to recruit social media warriors to counter the BJP’s “false narrative”. Considering social media has largely been the BJP’s forte, the Congress appears to have taken a leaf out of its book, and is, possibly for the first time, betting big on the medium.

“In the past few years, our activity on social media has increased a lot,” said Pranav Vachharajani, national convener, AICC Social Media Department. “We did it during the Bihar elections too, and it is something we are taking seriously.”

In February, the party launched a nationwide drive to recruit social media warriors. Vachharajani explained this as a means to “channelise isolated supportive voices so they are on one platform” and counter the BJP’s “false narrative”.

Last month, the party ran a contest in Assam asking young people to submit two-minute-long videos highlighting issues affecting the state — the winners could take away an iPhone. “The response was tremendous, we got at least 20,000 videos,” said Gogoi. “They highlighted myriads of issues — floods, women safety, illegal immigration. And we made it a point to meet the winners after — to discuss these issues with them, to connect, and to tell them that is more than just a contest. What they say matters.”

Additionally, the party has introduced key hashtags for certain issues. There is ‘BaadDiaHe’, the signature phrase used by former chief minister, late Tarun Gogoi, which colloquially translates to “Forget it”. “We are trying to highlight the BJP’s jumlas for Assam elections by using this hashtag,” said Vachharajani. “We have also launched something called Axomor Kotha, a live interview series where viewers can ask questions to the leaders.”

Party leaders said the campaign was carried out by an external firm, in coordination with the senior leaders.

According to Gogoi, the campaign’s strength lies in the fact that it is focused and issue-based, largely touching upon the CAA, as well as price rise and unemployment. “It is a very synchronised campaign and our messaging is well-coordinated,” he said, adding that this sort of coordinated messaging was not present in the party’s social media landscape earlier.

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