With the Uttar Pradesh election just months away and the country grappling with the third wave of the Covid pandemic, political parties are set to rely on digital campaigns more than ever for the crucial state election in India’s most populous state.
Congress leader and the party’s Uttar Pradesh campaign in charge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will go live on her social media pages later this afternoon, to speak about the party’s women centric ‘ladki hoon lad sakti hoon (I’m a girl and can fight)’ campaign. In a press release, the party said workers and the public will both be able to ask questions to Ms Vadra during the interaction.
The shift to virtual for the Congress comes after it took a call a few days ago to suspend ground rallies and campaigns for a fortnight, the first party to make such an announcement in Uttar Pradesh. The decision came after a marathon organised by Congress leaders in the Bareilly town, where thousands of mostly unmasked young girls took part in the event, led to a near stampede situation. The party says more digital campaigns will follow soon.
The Samajwadi Party has not made any official statement on digital campaigns so far, but its social media war room was active during the 2017 assembly polls too and sources say the plan is to take the social media game up by many notches.
A first step perhaps – the party has tweeted links inviting people to join WhatsApp groups run by party workers in each of the state’s 400 plus assembly constituencies. One such group, reviewed by this reporter, had multiple images and videos of the party campaign, including the latest ‘Fark Saaf Hai’ responses to a BJP social media and print campaign by the same name that has been on for a few months and targets the Akhilesh Yadav government between 2012-17 for ‘corruption’ and ‘encouraging mafias’.
The BJP, which appears to lead the social media game when it comes to election campaigns, has been bombarding newspapers with multiple full or half-page ads for the past month. Most of these ads have photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Adityanath with three main slogans – ‘double engine ki sarkaar’; ‘soch imandaar, kaam damdaar’ and ‘fark saaf hai’. Similar messaging has been taking place across WhatsApp groups and Twitter handles of BJP supporters for some time now. The party also had robust on-ground campaigns too till recently, but a top IT wing functionary of the party has been quoted by local papers as saying the focus in the coming days will be on using ‘3D technology’ to hold virtual rallies on social media. The party already has WhatsApp groups in each of the states 1.5 lakh plus polling booths.
Mayawati’s BSP, which has been using Facebook to beam physical rallies by senior leader Satish Chandra Mishra live, may have to do much more to match the social media firepower of rivals.
All parties also plan to use vans and trucks with LED screens to beam campaign videos across the state, especially in rural areas.