Parties say social networking sites are an important tool to build image among the upwardly mobile

With posters, photos, campaign news and even election songs, the virtual world is buzzing with electoral canvassing for the Assembly elections. Though in the nascent stage, online canvassing gives major parties a chance to click with the upwardly mobile voters.

Between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the saffron party seems to be the more active online campaigner. The BJP Yuva Morcha has plenty of user contributions about campaigns, candidate information, electoral posters, and posts that project Congress candidates as ‘Mullah appeasers’ or Muslim Congress candidates as playing to the “vote bank”.

For the Congress, election-specific pages include ‘Karnataka Assembly Poll Mangalore City’ with 151 likes and actively campaigns for their candidates here.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), Mangalore City Committee, is quite active with 1,813 friends, and gives active coverage of campaigning and rallies. SDPI Dakshina Kannada with 536 friends, BSR Congress Dakshina Kannada with 69 friends and KJP Mangalore page with 4 likes are among the other political parties trying to make their presence felt online. Surprisingly, Janata Dal (Secular) does not seem to have – or at least, the correspondent could not find it– a page exclusively for their candidates in the district.

There seems to be an urban-rural divide. There is hardly any representation on Facebook from candidates or local block committees of the parties in areas like Puttur, Sullia and Belthnagady, known to be predominantly agrarian regions.

Tool of the future

J.R. Lobo, Congress candidate in the Mangalore South constituency, who is among the Congress candidates actively canvassing on Facebook, said though social networking will not have an impact in these elections, it is essential as an image building exercise. “Those who use Facebook, are not likely to vote. This is more of an image building website, for, in the future, social networking will be an important campaigning tool,” he said.

Incidentally, with almost every information being for public viewing, a closer scrutiny of Mr. Lobo’s profile will reveal that he ‘likes’ Loksatta Party, which is contesting against the Congress in a few seats in the State.

Sandeep Jalan of the Information and Technology Cell of the BJP said the internet formed an important mode of campaigning for the party. “The internet is one of the biggest masses. Though it will require time for it to decide on the election trend, it is important to create an impression among the youth through this. We will soon start in rural places, as even if two votes are influenced through Facebook campaigns, it is worth it,” he said.

Beyond Facebook, a few candidates have an online presence in the form of websites, including Bantwal candidate U. Rajesh Naik, N. Yogish Bhat, J.R. lobo, Krishna J. Palemar, among others.