From 53 Facebook pages, to connecting booth-level workers and reaching 200 voters per booth via WhatsApp. A weekly online newsletter sent via these two social networking sites, and a Facebook Live programme called “Sunday Samvad” every week. The JD(U) has been laying the groundwork for what will be the first major election in India in times of Covid, with curtailed campaigning.
Sanjay Kumar Jha, Bihar Water Resources Minister and JD(U) national general secretary, says, “Nitish Kumar, right from the JP movement, has done mass-based politics. He can gauge from the people what the mood is by looking at them. We will now use technology to communicate with people. He will of course head out into the field but this will be a second level of communication.”
Work began in May this year, with a team of 12 to 15 people based in Patna. The team was led by Arunoday Prakash, who had worked with the Aam Aadmi Party for many years, with his last designation that of Chief Media Adviser, Delhi Jal Board, attached to the Chief Minister’s Office. “Prakash is from the Anna Andolan and worked with the Delhi government and the CM. Our ground workers, block-level workers, all were connected online. There has been no negative communication. The work Nitish Kumar has done in the last so many years, the idea is that it should penetrate to the ground,” Jha says.
The first job was setting up Facebook pages and WhatsApp chains, getting party workers on Facebook, and training them on aspects such as Facebook Live. The outreach also needed to be tailored to Bihar. “Facebook has a high number with people spending time on it. The second was WhatsApp. These are the two we focused on. Twitter and Instagram, some people are there on them in the cities, that’s about it,” Prakash says.
The first Facebook Live was held on May 24, and party leaders now host it every week. The JD(U) now has 53 pages, updated every day with videos, templates and infographics. A page called “Nitish Cares” was created on May 30 and has 230 videos and 900 infographics. “The team covers issues like Covid, floods, development, the Saat Nishchay programme (of Nitish), the CM’s speeches etc,” a member says. Overall, 350 videos and over 1,200 graphics have been created.
Prakash says, “On WhatsApp, we collected data and then made a central chain. It is like a ladder, first the central team, then the area secretary, district president, block worker, panchayat worker and booth worker. At every booth, these people were then meant to make a WhatsApp group of 200. One booth doesn’t have more than a thousand voters anyway because of Covid restrictions. If you create a group of 200 people, most of the electorate can be covered through their family. This is updated at least five-seven times per day with different kinds of videos, infographics and information.”
In the first half of July, a weekly digital newsletter was started called, “Bihar ke Naam, Nitish Ke Kaam.” Every week, seven items are carried in the newsletter, and disseminated digitally. “There is a personalised touch. Everybody thinks this has come to my phone,” Prakash says.
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