Social media have developed into a prime campaign tool

With nearly 20 lakh of the State’s youth expected to make their first visit to polling booths in the Lok Sabha polls, political parties have been forced to think beyond conservative campaign tools and focus on the social media.

The emphasis has shifted from graffiti on walls to impressive posts on Facebook walls to catch the attention of young voters. All political fronts and parties have formed IT cells dedicated to social media-based campaigning.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) has launched its website, mobile application, and created WhatsApp account in the first phase of an online campaigning targeted at reaching 50 lakh voters. “We update our social media accounts at least 10-20 times a day. We have identified Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Kottayam, Kollam, and Kannur as constituencies where the social media will have a significant impact,” Ranjith Balan, chairman, IT Cell of KPCC, told The Hindu. More than 1,000 volunteers ensure that every update on UDF’s social media accounts, which focus on the achievements of UPA and UDF governments, goes viral.

Free service

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) too wants its website, Facebook page and Twitter to be a talking point among the youth. The Facebook page of CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan has been active since the beginning of this year and his Kerala Raksha March was webcast live on YouTube, attracting viewers from 112 countries.

The CPI(M) too has drawn in volunteers with IT background from its supporters to keep alive its online campaign centred on price rise, corruption, and solar scam.

“Till now we haven’t paid a penny for professionally managing our social media accounts. Social media are just another cog in the party’s organisational machinery extending up to the branch level,” said a person involved in coordinating the online campaigning of the LDF.

A first for BJP

The Bharatiya Janata Party too is making its presence felt in the online world. An Android-based mobile application has been launched in the name of its Kasaragod candidate K. Surendran, claimed to be the first such application in the State.

The party has created websites for candidates in the Thiruvananthapuram, Kasaragod, Ernakulam, and Pathanamthitta constituencies. An interaction with Keralite expatriates through Google Hangouts was held recently to rope in volunteers for the party’s online campaign centred on Narendra Modi’s leadership.

“We have integrated our officially managed social media accounts into our website. So the Election Commission cannot hold us responsible for any other account in the party’s name. We have enlisted professional service, on a limited budget, to keep our accounts safe,” said A.V. Anand, convener, BJP’s State IT cell.

The Aam Aadmi Party is perhaps more active online rather than in conventional modes of campaign.

Dalit Manifesto, an election-oriented Facebook page discussing the aspirations of the Dalit community, has also gained attention. “We hear about the voting pattern of Dalits during every election but their expectations are not addressed in election manifestos. So we thought of a structured online campaigning. But the response exceeded our expectations and the page became a discussion point. We plan to consolidate the suggestions received and submit it to political parties,” said V.V. Ajaykumar, one of the four creators of the page.

EC is watching

With the increasing focus on the social media, the Election Commission (EC) may train its guns on it. Sanjay Vijayakumar, chairman of board of governors of Startup Village, said that while tweets or posts using the social media as a platform were permissible, it was the advertisements on social media accounts that would keep the EC interested.

“Social media in India are restricted to four companies Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. So, the EC will not find it difficult to collect data from these limited points. None of these companies accept cash. Since electronic payments always leave behind a trail, it will be easy for the EC to track it,” he said.

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