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Amid EC bar on rallies, BJP looks at digital reach to hit the ground running

Uttar Pradesh, politically the most significant state among the five going to the polls, is, as expected, the main focus of the party's digital campaign.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
January 18, 2022 8:50:38 pm
According to BJP sources, the party's digital messages have already crossed 25 crore impressions by mid-January.

With political parties engaging digital electioneering and lining up electronic delivery of poll messages amid a curb on physical campaigning ordered by the poll panel, the BJP feels it has advantages in the organisation network that is digitally enabled, and beneficiaries of various schemes of the Central and state governments to act as its ambassadors.

According to BJP sources, the party’s digital messages have already crossed 25 crore impressions by mid-January.

With the Election Commission of India banning political rallies and other physical campaigns for Assembly elections up to January 22, digitilisation of BJP’s massive network, which go down to the mandal and booth levels, is expected to give the party an upper hand.

Uttar Pradesh, politically the most significant state among the five going to the polls, is, as expected, the main focus of the party’s digital campaign. Sources said BJP plans to reach out to 5 crore to 6 crore of the total internet penetration of 8.3 crore people in UP. Before EC announced the election schedule, the Centre had started a massive digital push involving multiple centres of excellence, technology parks and entrepreneurship centres in UP. That, too, is expected to help the party.

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In December last year, the Union Ministry of Electronics and IT launched seven internet exchanges across the state, a centre of entrepreneurship in Lucknow, and a centre of excellence in Meerut.

Explained

Why BJP has upper hand

BJP leaders feel the party’s digitally empowered network on the ground, which go deep and wide, is its biggest advantage in the current election scenario, at a time when the EC has put curbs on rallies and physical campaigning.

The BJP’s social media campaign team, headed by Union minister Anurag Thakur, has already cleared a series of audio-visual messages and short films to convey the message of “good governance record” of the Centre and the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government. Earlier this week, the party launched a promotional campaign song, made on the lines of the popular Sri Lankan ditty “Manike Mage Hithe”, and another one on “Janata hai janardan (the people are the God)”.

While exodus of several OBC leaders from the party in UP, including state ministers, have hurt BJP’s narrative, the party has got NDA leaders from OBC and Dalit communities talking about various schemes of the government and reminding voters about the “crime and corruption” of the previous governments in the state in the second video.

“Our communication and messages are simply focused on governance records, promises we made and our delivery,” Union minister and BJP leader Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a member of the party’s social media team, told The Indian Express. “The message is consistently and strongly around development, governance agenda and our achievements. In particular, in states like Uttar Pradesh, the focus is on safety, law and order investments and our pro-poor schemes during the pandemic,” he said.

Chandrasekhar said the digitally empowered network the party has on the ground is its biggest advantage in the current election scenario. “BJP has a technology campaign and digital campaign that is built around the large number of people who have benefited from welfare schemes, and the large organisation network of BJP that has been progressively enabled digitally,” he said.

He also said BJP-led state governments have been using Jan Dhan accounts to distribute welfare scheme benefits directly to beneficiaries.

At local level, the BJP has already made connections with beneficiaries up to the booth level, party leaders said. “So the task is just to send the political message through the same network that is digitally enabled — the beneficiaries are our biggest ambassadors,” a party leader said. “The messaging is done without any risk in Covid times.”

The BJP, which has been building the organisation from the booth level along with its membership campaign launched immediately after the party came into power in 2014, has, in its last national executive meeting, set a target of constituting booth-level committees in all 10.40 lakh polling stations by December 2022 and to have “panna committees”, in reference to each page of voters’ list, by April 6.

Before the 2019 last Lok Sabha elections, the party formed plans to reach out to the beneficiaries of various government schemes. Ahead of these Assembly polls, many state units, including the party’s UP unit, had reached out to beneficiaries, whom the party sees as the “biggest voter-class cutting across castes and communities” during its outreach program on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday.

Under the PM Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojna, started during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are about 150 million beneficiaries who receive free ration every month, party leaders said. The estimated number of beneficiaries across the states is 23 crore.

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