BJP casts its net wide to win over the electorate - The New Indian Express

BJP casts its net wide to win over the electorate

Published: 28th July 2013 08:03 AM

Last Updated: 28th July 2013 08:25 AM

The BJP has logged into the 2014  elections, which could be fought in the virtual world where Internet warriors of all political colours wage war using just 140 characters. Realising that social media -- Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, et al -- could in fact be the real game-changer in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP plans to launch an internet portal, www.India272.com, to tap young and first-time voters. Its grand plan is to prepare a huge army of social media volunteers ready to rally behind Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is the party’s face for the 2014 polls, with Mission272+ as their war cry.

Modi is the tech inspiration behind the drive. The same technique he has used effectively in the social media to build up his image among youth would be used by the BJP through its information and communication wings, which have been brought under the Information Communication Campaign Committee (ICCC), a sub-committee set up as part of Modi’s national election team.

The ICCC, headed by party treasurer and Rajya Sabha MP Piyush Goyal, held its first meeting in Delhi last Friday. It drew over 300 delegates from 20 states. Targets have been assigned to each one of them. The tech team would work in close co-ordination with the committee on social media, which is headed by Modi aide and BJP general secretary Amit Shah.

In the next one month, a team of 50 workers would fan out in cyberspace to enrol at least 1,000 young volunteers, who are active on the social media or have access to these tools, in every constituency in the country. They would, in turn, communicate the message relayed to them by the party to those on their network.

Through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and chat applications like WhatsApp, they would unleash a torrent of party messages from senior leaders like Modi. “We will attract volunteers by telling them that they, too, have a chance to be heard. They will be the new party spokespersons,” said a BJP leader, quoting successful social media examples like Shilpi Tewari and Priti Gandhi, who have become not just party volunteers, but even have a fan following of their own.

“We intend to engage people, who may not have anything to do with politics or the BJP, but want to see a strong leader at the helm of the country. These people may be fed up with existing social and economic conditions,” BJP IT cell co-convener K Amresh told Express.

The BJP’s new social media army may not actually become party workers, but would act as a loose formation. The BJP shows off successful existing examples such as NaMo brigade and NaMo4PM -- groups that operate through Facebook and Twitter. These went viral last month, working together to make Modi India’s leading politician with the maximum number of Twitter followers (19.75lakh) beating Shashi Tharoor (18.47 lakh), who was leading till then.

The party’s IT department is leading the charge online and besides faceless social media users, their target include IT company CEOs and managers. “We are in touch with 380 top ranking IT professionals, whose net-worth might be over `1000 crore. There are over 40,000 such professionals, who in turn, employ 60 million people. They need to be told about how technology can change the country. These are the ones who could help the country progress. By engaging with them, we can communicate what our party will be able to achieve once we come in power,” said BJP IT cell co-convener Vinit Goenka.

The social media plan is already on the go. Modi’s Twitter page has been replicated in regional languages like Telugu, Malayalam, Odia, Bangla, Marathi. His tweets and those of other senior party leaders are immediately re-tweeted to a huge number of tweeples within minutes.

The BJP has already put in the passwords. In Madhya Pradesh, its IT cell has set up Facebook pages for even district level units. Whatsapp groups have been set up in all small cities. “We have developed portals where details of over 1.25 lakh party workers can be accessed through a mobile phone within seconds,” said Madhya Pradesh IT cell convener Vikas Bondriya.

Sources said the party already has state IT cells to gather bloggers, twitterati and Facebook users to disseminate the party’s message. Soon, meetings of those active on the social media would be held at state and constituency levels. BJP volunteers, who attended the day-long workshop, were gung-ho about revolutionising the election campaign like never before.

Their enthusiasm may not be misplaced given the number of social media users. According to statistics, 20 per cent of the total electorate would be first timers and youth -- the segment that is most active on social media.

India has over 861 million mobile phone users, while 168 million have internet connections. About 87 million access the internet through their mobiles. Among social media users, over 78 million people use Facebook and 33 million are on Twitter, according to industry data available until April 2013.

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