Stepping into four-time BJP MLA Sardar Tara Singh’s shoes was not going to be a cakewalk, and Mihir Kotecha, the party’s candidate from Mulund constituency, knows it well. A day after the BJP give him the ticket from the seat, Kotecha lost no time to break ice with his voters, especially on the social media.
While Kotecha has a devoted social media team that works towards popularising #Mihir4Mulund on Twitter, the 45-year-old has also prepared a “photo template” and is reaching out to local “influencers”, urging them to endorse him on Facebook.
The template, sources close to Kotecha said, comprises a picture of Kotecha and his endorser, with a message “me matdaar” (I am a voter) and “mazza umedwar” (my candidate). The template, when posted on the endorsers’ profile with a caption #Mihir4Mulund, keeps showing up on the Facebook accounts of voters from Mulund, a party source said.
Dr Ramesh Punjani of Pooja nursing home, who shared one such template on his Facebook account recently, said, “I have high regard for Kotecha. As this was the only time he came to me asking for help, I posted it (the photo template) for him.”
A member of Kotecha’s social campaign said they had come up with the plan a day after he was granted ticket on October 1. “Social media has become the easiest way to reach out to voters. We are picking the ‘right people’ from the respective areas and asking them to share pictures with Kotecha while appealing to their friends on social media to vote for the BJP candidate. A few people have done it, but our target is to make around 500 people post such templates on their Facebook profile,” he said.
On an average, he added, a person has at least 500 friends on Facebook, so when an image is uploaded by one person is at least seen by 500 people. When these pictures are ‘liked’ by some others, it further gets displayed on their profile, he added.
The opposition, however, dissed Kotecha’s social media campaign, saying it would only limit his reach to the younger generation and fetch him about 5,000 votes, while many would choose Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s Harshala Chavan, who has been campaigning door-to-door in the constituency.
Mulund resident Hari Balaji said, “I had never heard of his (Kotecha’s) name before, it was all Sardar Tara Singh. Till the time I saw his pictures on Facebook with a hashtag, I thought that Singh was contesting the election from my constituency.”
Claiming that very few people knew the BJP candidate, Chavan’s husband Rajesh said, “Nobody knows who Mihir Kotecha is. People are aware that he lost from Wadala in 2014 and they are questioning to why he was even given a ticket by the party…”
There are senior citizens, domestic workers and many other people who do not use the social media. Every morning we see him (Kotecha) sharing pictures on Facebook, instead he should start sharing the good deeds he has done… Like every other election, they (the BJP) will use the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ask for votes.”
In 2014 Assembly election, Kotecha had contested from Wadala constituency and lost to Congress’ Kalidas Kolambkar by around 800 votes. Kolambkar joined the BJP a month back.
On Wednesday, after inaugurating his election office in Mulund (west), Kotecha also took out a rally in the Marathi-dominated areas — from Hanuman Mandir Babugenu Chowk to 90 Feet Road in Mulund (East). As many as 1,30,315 (or 45 per cent) of the total 2,86,831 voters in Mulund constituency are Marathi, while 59,424 are Gujarati. Shiv Sena leader and popular Marathi TV actor Aadesh Bandekar was present at the inaugural of the election office.
A Mulund shopkeeper, who did not wish to be named, said, “I have grown up in Mulund. Since the time I started running a stationery shop in Mulund (East) I had just heard Kotecha’s name, but I had never seen him. This is the first time that I saw him. BJP’s Tara Singh is known for good work in Mulund as he was our MLA for the last 20 years.”