With political parties moving their campaigns online against the backdrop of the Model Code of Conduct being imposed, Puneet Agarwal, head of the social media and IT team of BJP’s Delhi unit, talks about the task ahead of him.
What are some of the challenges you face while running social media campaigns?
The MCC is clear on three things: Politicians should not post controversial things, promote fake news or use the Armed Forces for campaigning. Frankly, these are just the kind of things the Delhi BJP social media cell has avoided even before the poll code kicked in. That said, we have become extra cautious.
The EC recently asked BJP MLA OP Sharma to remove pictures of IAF wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Facebook. Does the episode suggest political leaders are unfamiliar with the MCC on social media?
Personally, I feel Abhinandan is the pride of the nation and every Indian should be allowed to celebrate his achievements. That said, I can’t comment on individuals, but the BJP’s social media cell has always been clear that it will abide by EC’s rules. One thing people should realise is that most leaders are new to social media, and not tech savvy. They do make mistakes unintentionally. While we have not planned training sessions for candidates or party workers, they have been instructed to contact us in case of any doubts.
How effective do you think the EC will be in curbing fake news?
From a personal point of view, the rules mostly apply to social media accounts of candidates and political parties. As the head of the social media cell of Delhi BJP, I have gone through the 312-page MCC document. But to hope the rest of the country would know about these rules and abide by them would be a stretch. It is a good start, but the EC has a long way to go. A good first step would be to familiarise people with the dos and don’ts, using formats the public is able to connect with.
For the BJP, which social media platform is the most preferred?
Each platform serves its own purpose. For example, if the aim is to reach out to the youth, we rely on Facebook. Twitter lets us connect with the intellectuals. WhatsApp, on the other hand, helps us connect with people who may not be present on other platforms.