National

Ping-happy Congress gets message across

Representational image.   | Photo Credit: AP

The Congress is a late entrant to the world of hashtag politics, but the party now wants to go big on social media, setting an ambitious target of having nearly one million functionaries on social media platforms by December.

The idea is to not just challenge dominance of the BJP and its supporters on social media platforms but also create multiple narratives.

This week, a batch of Congress workers was trained by domain experts on how to use digital platforms — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp — better.

Trending topics

Party leaders say they have tasted success with trending topics such as Vikas Gando Thayo Che (Development has gone crazy) to mock the BJP’s development claims in Gujarat, #Ain’tNoCinderella to protest against a Haryana BJP leader’s comment that girls should not go out at night and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s trip to the United States.

The 85th birthday of the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month turned a top trend on Twitter because of the party’s new-found aggression.

Priyanka Chaturvedi, a Congress spokesperson who is prolific on Twitter, said “more people are willing to listen to their [Congress] point of view now than in May 2014 [Lok Sabha elections]”.

Party’s communication chief Randeep Surjewala put this to a disillusionment with the Modi government.

“When Mr. Gandhi spoke in Berkeley, we had 57,000 following him on live stream at 7 a.m. in the morning,” said Divya Spandana, who now heads the party’s social media wing.

Speaking at the University of California in the U.S. city, Mr. Gandhi alleged that “a BJP machine with 1,000 guys on computer was working to prove that he is reluctant, he is stupid”.

The party is now busy countering it with its own team of social media warriors. From working with some of the fake news busting sites to using similar digital content and creativity, the idea is to challenge the dominant narrative.

Preferred platform

A social media worker who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity said the party’s preferred platform was WhatsApp as it was private (compared with Facebook and Twitter) and could prove to be effective.

A dedicated team of Congress workers from every State who are connected by WhatsApp decide their campaigns and how to go about it.

"See, there was this campaign that BBC survey shows Congress is the third most corrupt party. BBC clarified that it carried no such survey, but not all may have read it or heard about it,"explained the volunteer.

So, the social media team decided to use the same content and image and drew a parallel with BJP. "Our message was simple: we told the recipient of the message that if you feel for this fake news then the news about Congress was fake too. It works," said the volunteer.

Ms. Spandana, who was tasked with leading the social media campaign, didn’t discuss the specifics. “We have put in a distribution system that ensures our message travels and reaches every person it intends to.”

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 4:33:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ping-happy-cong-gets-message-across/article19820787.ece

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