HYDERABAD: With early elections to the state Assembly looking certain now, the political war on the virtual world has just shifted gears. True that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics, skeletons that were restricted to cupboards have started tumbling out. Be it photographs, video footage or newspaper clippings, not only politicians but also their supporters aka IT cells have intensified their task at hand.
While the Congress, in its attempt to expose the TRS leadership, has been sharing archival images of K Chandrasekhar Rao and Sonia Gandhi, purportedly taken before the State’s formation, KCR continues to brand the Congress as the number one villain of Telangana while scion KT Rama Rao is leading the attack on the opposition in his own unsparing manner. Also popping up are fake or photo-shopped images of political leaders. Saifabad police on Saturday received a complaint over posting of a photograph showing prime minister Narendra Modi touching the feet of former Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
“A recent survey shows that social media will impact at least 40 per cent of the vote bank in the country. The election fever has just begun and we will have a big announcement soon,” said P Jagan Mohan Rao, a youth leader belonging to the TRS and a member of its social media team that had recently handled the Pragathi Nivedana Sabha.
TRS, he said, does not have a social media cell yet but has a massive network of netizens in the form of volunteers and supporters. Asked about fake content, he said the idea is to first condemn it and then expose it. “There are chances of the TRS having its own social media team soon.”
For the Congress, social media is going to be its primary tool. “It is a low-cost tool with high impact. We will reach out strongly to people. Through our Shakthi App, TPCC app and various Facebook and WhatsApp groups, we are going to take on the ruling party,” said Dasoju Sravan Kumar, general secretary (media and communications), state Congress. According to him, no leader in the state has used ‘Facebook Live’ to communicate with cadre or supporters like TPCC president N Uttam Kumar Reddy has.
The sudden dissolution of the legislative Assembly has shocked the BJP’s IT Cell which was prepping its social media and WhatsApp warriors right from the booth level to state office-bearers group. “As of now, we have covered about 60 constituencies in our mission to hold over 100 plus training workshops. We aim to have 100 volunteers at each constituency level who will be our last mile agents. Though we did not anticipate early polls, we are catching up,” said Sandeep Vempati, who was the social media in-charge of state unit president K Laxman till recently, and now co-convener of BJP’s election cell. According to him, the party’s IT cell has the largest number of over 200 volunteers in Siddipet constituency. For BJP-Telangana, the focus remains on Facebook.
“Each person is a member of hundreds of WhatsApp groups and may lose focus on the actual message we would like to communicate. Since Facebook is non-intrusive that way, we have much of focus on Facebook too, apart from WhatsApp, Twitter, etc,” he said.An observer with a prominent election campaign strategy team, however, predicts that the coming elections will not be fought more on Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.
“The penetration of WhatsApp is unbelievable and most campaigns are now structured around its groups. Engaging with the public is important. While Instagram appeals more to the youth, Twitter caters to the educated class,” he said on condition of anonymity.
ShareChat more lethal than WhatsApp
ShareChat goes a step beyond WhatsApp in creating impact. The instant messaging app is poised to revolutionise electioneering. “The app allows sharing of messages in one’s mother tongue or local language. It allows one to share content between ShareChat and WhatsApp,” said an observer