Digital ‘war rooms’ gear up for Lok Sabha pollshttps://indianexpress.com/elections/digital-war-rooms-gear-up-for-lok-sabha-polls-5625310/

Digital ‘war rooms’ gear up for Lok Sabha polls

With 2.71 lakh followers, the NCP has the highest following on its official Twitter account, followed by the Sena (1.55 lakh), the BJP (1.35 lakh) and Congress (88,000) — the figures are for all the parties Maharashtra handle.

Digital ‘war rooms’ gear up for Lok Sabha polls
In Maharashtra, it is not just the BJP and the Congress which have appointed full-fledged team to declare their online presence. The NCP and the Shiv Sena too are in the fray. (Source: Reuters/Representational)

Peppy slogans, catchy videos and an avalanche of advertisements — the race for the Lok Sabha Elections this year will be hotly contested in the virtual world as well, with the digital “war rooms” of each political parties getting their social media warriors battle-ready.

In Maharashtra, it is not just the BJP and the Congress which have appointed full-fledged team to declare their online presence. The NCP and the Shiv Sena too are in the fray.

With 2.71 lakh followers, the NCP has the highest following on its official Twitter account, followed by the Sena (1.55 lakh), the BJP (1.35 lakh) and Congress (88,000) — the figures are for all the parties Maharashtra handle.

Aditi Nalawade, president of the Yuvati Wing of the NCP in Mumbai and member of the party’s state social media team, said: “We have the highest number of followers on Twitter… our numbers are all organic.”

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She said that the party’s social media team is focused on two fronts “…To project the positive work done by the NCP in last 15 years, and the current unrest among people (against the ruling party) in terms of unemployment, price rise and such other issue. These issues are being highlighted via songs, videos and infographics,” Nalawade told The Indian Express.

“Two months ago we had asked 56 questions to the party whose leader has a 56-inch-wide chest,” she said, in a veiled reference to the Prime Minister.

Right now, she said, the NCP is engaged in ferreting out facts and figures about various schemes of the government. “‘One scheme, one day’ is our new online project. So, for instance, if Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao scheme was launched (by the government), we are asking questions like how much money was spent on its media campaign,” she said.

The BJP, in turn, has set up various portals and claims to have already reached out to more than 30 lakh people. Ashish Merkhed, state in-charge of the BJP’s social media and IT cell, said the party has been uploading speeches and interviews of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on its YouTube channel. “No stone is left unturned in reaching out to the people.”

The party’s IT cell recently floated a ‘Namo Again’ online campaign — the Prime Minister is the party’s brand ambassador — and via Google Docs enlisted several volunteers from the IT sector in Pune. Nikhil Panchbhai, a member of the party’s social media cell in Maharashtra, said: “These are people who want to volunteer for the party and send information and/or forward videos about the work done by the Prime Minister on their respective Whatsapp groups.”

The Congress too is not trailing on the digital platforms. “Bigul baja hai, ab janta ki baari… Kamar kasi hain hamne, abki jeet hamari” — a new video, released recently by the national social media cell of the party, is being circulated on Whatsapp groups and the party’s official digital platform. Abhijit Sapkal, state coordinator of the Congress’s social media cell, stressed that their strategy did not involve hiring professionals. “We have in-house volunteers and do not believe in creating a fake buzz or any kind of controversy.”

Neelam Gorhe, spokesperson for the Shiv Sena, reiterated that reaching out to maximum number of voters during the seven-phase polling (polling will be held in four phases in Maharashtra) was important. …We aim to keep our voters engaged by taking out political points and debating on them,” Gorhe said.

The Yuva Sena, she added, was the party’s ‘Yuva Seva’ (or youth brigade) in true essence and also the social media team, which shares data about their development works throughout the year and not just ahead of the elections.

Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, however, said that it did not feel the need to appoint a full-fledged team to declare the party’s online presence. “Our voters are our biggest activists,” Sujat Ambedkar, son of Prakash Ambedkar, said. Sujat is helping the party’s social media campaign.

“We are working on how to translate the huge turnout at rallies into tangible resources,” he said, adding that the tempo has been built and their activists were circulating images, graphics and other related information on why people should vote for them.