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Amid EC curbs, Goa parties ramp up poll campaign on social media

With EC extending ban on physical rallies and roadshows to 22 January, contestants in Goa battlefield are using various social media platforms aggressively to woo voters and take on their opponents ahead of 14 February polls

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Panaji |
January 21, 2022 11:21:20 pm
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal during a door-to-door election campaign for upcoming Goa polls, at Cortalim constituency. (PTI Photo)

With the Election Commission (EC) extending the ban on physical rallies and roadshows for the upcoming Assembly elections in five states to January 22 amid the raging Covid third wave, political parties in poll-bound Goa have ramped up their social media campaign in their bids to woo voters and take on their opponents.

From Facebook Live to Instagram Reels to WhatsApp groups, the contestants in the Goa electoral battlefield are using various social media platforms aggressively to direct their messaging to voters ahead of the 14 February polls.

Goa reported 2,668 new Covid cases with a positivity rate of 37.42 per cent and nine deaths on Friday. The total number of active cases was 21,947.

All the major political parties, including the ruling BJP, Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and the latest entrant into the fray, Trinamool Congress (TMC), have stepped up their election campaigning via social media by using digital advertisements, video clips and WhatsApp groups.

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Although door-to-door canvassing by their leaders have already begun in parts of Goa, the parties are now prioritising their digital outreach to people. They have augmented the strength of their social media cells by bringing in more “social media warriors”, as they gear up for virtual rallies and more interactive engagement with voters in the coming days.

Amid the surging Covid cases in the state since late last month, major parties redesigned their poll campaigns by scaling up their use of various social media platforms. With the EC’s ban on physical rallies and roadshows coming into effect since 8 January, they have amped it up, giving an extra push to their engagements with voters as well as the profiles of their election candidates on social media.

“This is a challenge because nobody has experienced such restrictions in election campaign before. This situation has arisen for the first time. But you have to educate yourself about social media and you have to educate the people too,” said Goa BJP general secretary Narendra Sawaikar, a member of the party’s election management committee.

“There are Instagram Reels, Facebook Live, short videos for people on WhatsApp. That’s the best way to do it. There are no restrictions on meetings with just 15-20 people. So we are meeting people in small groups. We communicate through telephone and social media,” Sawaikar said.

Tailoring their messaging to each of the 40 constituencies in Goa seems to have been their focus now. “We had to organise ourselves more effectively so we can reach the last person. We have WhatsApp groups in all constituencies. In my observation, the younger generation is more active on Instagram Reels but the older generation too has been using smartphones and using for a long time. Even senior citzens are using FB (Facebook), WA (WhatsApp) and they know how to connect,” said Sawaikar.

The All India Congress Committee (AICC) social media department’s national coordinator in-charge of Goa, Hasiba Amin, said, “Social media also gives you the option of targeted messaging and engagement. In a rally you give one message to all those who have gathered. But what social media gives you that television doesn’t is the engagement platform. You can engage with the leaders, view them on your phone. This is something that people could not have done at public meetings.”

She said, “We have approximately 2,000 WhatsApp groups to percolate to the booth level. Our line of thinking has moved towards how we can have more engagement with our content. Our focus now is on how to have a more person to person, two-way communication on our digital platforms.”

The AAP had to induct more members into its 20-member social media team, a party spokesperson said. The AAP has been using Twitter and YouTube actively for its social media campaign. It went live on Facebook with party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s door-to-door campaign in three constituencies in the state recently. The party has also regularly made use of memes and Instagram trends for connecting with the youth in the run-up to the polls.

Like it had done during the Delhi Assembly polls in 2020, the AAP may soon roll out Kejriwal’s virtual door-to-door campaign in Goa via digital messages with the video of the leader ringing house door bells and visiting people, party functionaries said. This will be in addition to IVR (Interactive Voice Response) messaging to people via phone calls.

The TMC that arrived in Goa with the campaign management expertise of Prashant Kishor’s iPAC, has over 2,500 social media volunteers amplifying the party’s message. According to the party’s campaign managers, Goa has 13.5 lakh digital users and their aim was to touch each user at least 500 times.

The TMC claims that WhatsApp is its biggest strength digitally, connected to at least 30 per cent Goans. Over 200 local leaders of the Goa TMC are active on WhatsApp groups at the booth level, the party claims.

Mobile vans with screens playing the TMC’s poll messages, which had been deployed in each of the 40 constituencies in Goa over the last two months, were withdrawn following the EC’s model code of conduct coming into effect on 8 January, an iPAC functionary said.

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